Open Letter on the Role of Delhi Law Minister
The following is an open letter sent by leading women’s organizations to Delhi chief minister on January 21 demanding immediate and appropriate action against Somnath Bharti and registration of cases against those responsible for the racial profiling and harassment of African women in Khirki Village and dropping the demand of suspension of the Malviya Nagar SHO. The women’s organisations included All India Democratic Women’s Association, National Federation of Indian Women, All India Progressive Women’s Association, Act Now For Harmony and Democracy, Centre for Women’s Development and Studies, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Jagori, Joint Women’s Programme, and Young Women’s Christian Association. IT is with extreme dismay that we write to you regarding the horrific act of harassment and racial profiling of Ugandan and Nigerian women by a group led by Delhi law minister Somnath Bharti and comprising amongst others members of Aam Admi Party. Such a targeting goes against the sense of security and human rights of all women in general, and of single and working women in particular. Television footage of the incident including Somnath Bharti’s own detailed statements, CCTV footage from AIIMS and the complaints by the women themselves, clearly indicate that Somnath Bharti endangered the women and instigated the crowd to violate their human rights, by branding them as prostitutes and asking the crowd to catch them. We as women’s organisations who have worked amongst women for several decades in Delhi and around, have fought against the extremely insensitive anti-women behaviour of Delhi Police in cases related to crimes against women. Examples of police hostility against women abound – be it cases of “honour” crime where the police has handed over young couples to be killed by their families, or cases of rape and dowry where the survivors are victimised and harassed while the perpetrators roam scot-free. It is increasingly becoming a very unsafe city for women and girls. We agree that it is essential to put in place measures to discipline and hold Delhi police accountable for their lapses and short comings – the latest instances including the Danish woman’s rape and the dowry murder of Neha Yadav. We once again reiterate our long standing demand that the central government take urgent necessary steps towards bringing Delhi police under the Delhi government. We also know how hard it is to ensure that Police act in accordance with law and constitutional values rather than public or political sentiment, especially in matters involving women and vulnerable social groups. In this incident, the Malviya Nagar SHO became a rare exception who acted to protect the African women, whose safety was criminally compromised. It is therefore a great disservice to women’s rights to penalise Police officers who refuse to act in accordance with inflamed prejudices of the public or political leaders. And it is even more dangerous to allow private individuals or even ministers to take the law into their own hands and subject already vulnerable sections like women to further harassment. This was also a clear case of racial profiling against foreign citizens. We are therefore shocked to see you and other leaders of your party defend the actions of Somnath Bharti. We urge you to immediately condemn the role of and take appropriate action against Somnath Bharti and registration of cases against those responsible under relevant sections of the IPC and CrPC. We also demand that you drop the insistence on suspending the Malviya Nagar SHO. We would also like you to meet our delegation at your convenience. DELHI CPI(M) EXPRESSES CONCERN The CPI(M), Delhi state committee in a statement issued on January 17, 2014 expressed serious concern at the unabated incidents of rape and other crimes against women in the capital. The gang rape of a Danish national in a park near Connaught Place is the latest testimony to this horrific truth. The central and state governments as well as the Delhi Police should work out a coordinated strategy to tackle this menace. Unfortunately, they seem more interested in taking potshots at each other. The state committee urged upon the new chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal to take concrete measures for providing security to women and girls in the capital. Instead of doing so, he is indulging in bravado of taking on the Delhi Police accompanied by the intent to conduct a study to ascertain the reasons behind rape! It strongly disapproved the high-handed behaviour of Delhi law minister, Somnath Bharati in Khirki Extension, Malviya Nagar on the night of January 16. He and his supporters confined a number of African residents, men and women both, for several hours. They were subjected to verbal and physical indignities that were racial in nature and accused of running a drug and prostitution racket. The police refused to act against those being accused on grounds of lack of evidence. It hoped that AAP ministers and functionaries will desist from such vigilante actions in future.