Xenophobia, Racism and Vigilantism – Danger Signals for AAP

The bizarre drama yesterday, involving one of the Aam Aadmi Party ministers, Somnath Bharti, should make the AAP leadership sit up and think. Here is a brief extract from a report:

Less than 24 hours after he led a midnight raid and tried to bully police into arresting some “Nigerians or Ugandans” who he alleged were members of “a prostitution-and-drug ring”, Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti returned to the very spot on Thursday and asked residents to draw up a list of houses where “such people” live and said he would personally check each one.

The minister got embroiled in a full-scale confrontation with the ACP, BS Jakhar, who insisted, correctly that the police were not legally empowered to do this. According to the same report, Jakhar said, “The minister told me that the women inside are part of a drug racket and that we should conduct a raid in all houses in the area. I told him that the law does not permit us to barge into someone’s house, so late in the night, without a search warrant.” But to not effect. The minister was not only unfazed; he even went on say that he had “received a lot of complaints from women in this locality against foreign nationals, yeh hum aur aap jaise nahin hain (They are not like you or me).”

A number of questions arise from this incident. The first and most obvious one is about the issue of vigilantism and the observance of the ‘due process of the law’ which most newspapers and reports have underlined. And for once, in that face of Somnath Bharti’s intemperate behaviour, Delhi Police appears to be doing the right thing. In fact, the African women who Bharti was out to get, have gone on record saying:

“We were returning from a party, when our taxi was stopped by a few men. They started shouting at us, calling us names. The police were in fact supporting us. They held us captive inside the car for over three hours,” one of the women told The Indian Express.

I am no advocate of prioritizing ‘due process’ without reference to the context – for very often, ‘due process’ works in the interests of the powerful. I do think that there are occasions when ‘due process’ becomes a shackle f0r the powerless and I do not want to fetishize it. It is precisely for this reason a matter of utmost importance that we exercise our judgement in each case with care. But there are reasons why it has become part of established procedure in any modern society, that the state and its representatives not be allowed to function vis-a-vis the ordinary people without authorization. Barging into people’s homes and arresting them without search/ arrest warrants is one such safeguard that has been fought for and established over centuries. No one can be allowed to violate these under any circumstances.

The second issue here is of the minister’s highly objectionable othering of the Africans who are our guests – and until otherwise proven guilty of some specific crime – must be treated with utmost respect. Not only did the minister not show the minimum respect that hospitality demands, he in fact gave free expression to his basest prejudices – of racism and xenophobia when he said “they are not like you or me”.  One needs to understand that notwithstanding our long-standing traditions which consider the guest as an avatar of the gods (atithi devo bhavah), ours is deeply xenophobic and racist society.  Hatred of the other is ingrained in us and those who aspire to political leadership can ill afford to go by the flow of what the masses believe. This is a delicate issue but one that is of capital importance. Simply because the minister receives complaints from such neighbours – whose attitudes about purity and vice are among other things, structured by their caste position as well – he cannot afford to jump into the act without any thought and reflection. But this is perhaps wishful thinking on our part because Somnath Bharti and other AAP MLAs and ministers are also perhaps part of the very same universe of the ‘popular’ that the masses inhabit. That they are part of that world and suddenly catapulted into a position of running the government is no doubt their strength, but can also turn out to be their undoing, if they do not watch out.

The third issue that is linked to this complex of the relationship between the leadership and the popular support it has, is the much celebrated idea of mohalla sabhas and devolution of power to local committees. This is something that Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders need to think hard about. After all, this was one reason why Ambedkar was vehemently opposed to the idea of devolution and gram swaraj – for he saw no possibility of their being free of the effects of caste practices. The ‘popular’ is often celebrated in opposition to both the statism of the liberal political elites as well as the vanguardism of the radical elites but itself remains uninterrogated. We either have the statist and radical elites who have nothing but disdain and suspicion of the popular or, we have the endless celebration of the popular without submitting it to any serious critique. Yesterday’s incidents should tell us that any unreflective faith in mohalla sabhas can be highly problematic and the leadership needs to evolve a more finely tuned and balanced approach to the issue of devolution of power.

Finally, the episode highlights another matter that the AAP leadership needs to immediately tackle. The massive and rapid expansion of the party and the influx of many people with immediate political ambitions for the next elections is going to create as many problems as it solves. The party cannot go on in the fashion it currently is – in a state of permanent action with little time to think and reflect on itself. If the Somnath Bharti episode can serve as a timely warning about this serious lacuna, AAP might manage to forestall many of the dangers that lie waiting for it along the way. It may be worthwhile for the party to think of ways of conducting workshops and study circles for their activists and leaders alike, even while they are in the midst of a momentous task. That alone can prevent the new and interesting experiment that AAP is from dissipating before it has time to realize its potential.

 

 

55 thoughts on “Xenophobia, Racism and Vigilantism – Danger Signals for AAP”

  1. Could not ‘like’ it becuase that seems to require a wordpress login.
    Giving space to xenophobia for poltical expediency is a serious problem – how much do we stretch the imagination that good folks will come to power compromising with all that we hold wrong and will remain free to shower their goodness is a question. Already we have a relatively moderate statement by Prashant on people’s voice on internal security not ok for the party, Yogendra talks about the ‘other side of Khap’ and now CM follows up vigilantism of his xenophobic colleague with ‘rape begins with sex work’. Time to worry.

  2. The minister should show trust in the police and allow them to follow the law , instead of coming on to roads he should properly manage the hierarchy giving attention to other problems as well . This mistreatment of foreigners will not project India in good light , if there were drugs then where are they coming from ? marijuana/ganja is easily available in delhi , I personally seen it in delhi ! then why is it not controlled .

  3. Dear Aditya,
    I welcome your intervention, it is important for supporters of the AAP phenomenon to be in the forefront of criticising its mistakes or excesses.
    I ask you to rethink the use of the word “fetishize” in the context of “due process”. I fear the danger of obfuscating the meaning of the term “due process”. In the passage where you use it you finally end by defending ‘due process’ without naming it. The term “fetishizing due process” is an oxymoron as the term “due process” carries within it the element of balance and consideration of context.
    It is true that powerful people benefit most from “due process”. And when the powerless want to to legal action against the powerful there may be occasions when “‘due process’ becomes a shackle f0r the powerless.” But this is nothing unique about “due process” powerful people derive greater benefit from all laws. I remembered this poem and after looking it up discovered to my surprise that it was written by an English judge, Charles Bowen: “The rain it raineth on the just/And also on the unjust fella;/But chiefly on the just, because/The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.”
    In a context of inequality all legislation runs the danger of getting subverted against the deprived. This is a point expressed most eloquently by Anatole France: “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.”
    This does not mean that we should hold the “law” to be meaningless and look for context to allow “[us to] exercise our judgement in each case with care.” The answer remains within the realm of deepening rights to make them meaningful for everybody, not just for people “like you or me.”

    Meanwhile the police’s brilliant defence of democratic rights should make it clear that their many previous and ongoing violations of these rights was never out of any ignorance but a clear willingness to subvert these rights to serve the interests of powerful people who have urged them to action. The Delhi Police is using whatever argument they can muster to not follow orders of somebody who has no legal or administrative rights over them.

  4. Agreeing in full with Aditya, what is disturbing is statement of Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, in press conference held yesterday on the issue. In morning news it is again reported that CM is demanding suspension of ACP and SHO. He probably Najeeb Jung and demanded for action against Police Officers.

  5. Should we believe that the local community actually believes what somnath bharti would like them to believe? No so easily, since the african community has been living side-by-side the local, despite ugly confrontations at times. The debate shouldn’t go towards the hospitality question; ‘atithi devo bhava’ is a convenient way to exchange goodwill among the elite. Migrant populations wouldn’t be so vulnerable had ‘atithi devo bhava’ been more than just a token usage.

  6. Very well put!
    Populism is all well and good when it attempts to redress genuine grievances of the common people, but the downside of it is that it often (inadvertently), ends up channeling the prejudices of the very same people! Esp in the contentious field of politics.
    And yes, the author rightly notes that the colossal expansion of the party has in some sense eroded the ideals it has sought to project. It is very easy for well-intentioned volunteerism to give way to violent, self-righteous vigilantism.
    Besides which, a purely anti-corruption plank is a common platform for uniting people, but can hardly act as a filter to weed out unnecessary elements. Perhaps AAP should have spelt out what it intends to do beyond the broad framework of handling electricity and water issues. But as a party that is growing and coming into its own political identity, that is a huge task to undertake in the short term.
    Despite being someone who always believed that hierarchy in politics was unhealthy and undemocratic, I’m beginning to see the benefits of having a structured system where there are clear lines of control which can exert some sort of sensible restrain on its foot soldiers. Not a hierarchy along the lines of sychophansy and definitely not based on dynasty politics, but still some hierarchy nevertheless!

  7. The more this AAP phenomenon unfolds, the more it seems to resemble the mass uprising in 1989-90 Kashmir i.e. minus the guns and and plus the modicum of political power it was allowed to seize. Unfortunately no one did a micro-sociology of those years in Kashmir when people had virtually taken over. Had this been the case, I think it would have been a useful resource both for course correction in Kashmir and as a manual for future popular movements elsewhere. We need to look more closely at the good (public participation, democratization) and the bad (vigilantism, reinforcement of retrograde ideas) of it when the people take over; how to mitigate the bad even as we partake of the good. The moment of unsettling and overthrow is great but it must be followed by the moment of consolidation and deepening of the values and ideas that are a necessary condition for freedom. As you rightly suggest it would come through reflexive application, hard work and collective self-education.

    How can an open movement like AAP keep away populists creatures like Kumar Vishawas and Somnath Bharti who resemble right wing cadres in their mannerisms, opinions as well as actions especially when the party is in such a hurry to expand? Possibly the ‘ideology warriors’ whom you critiqued in your previous post could help if they could be motivated to directly or indirectly share their insight with the activist cadres while they are still motivated. As you rightly suggest carrying out ‘workshops’ might help. And who knows, in the process both groups (the ideological warriors as well as political warriors prone to vigilantism) might transform for the better!

    1. “How can an open movement like AAP keep away populists creatures like Kumar Vishawas and Somnath Bharti who resemble right wing cadres in their mannerisms”

      That is the main problem and the reason this specific incident is a worrisome indicator of things to come. I support the idea behind the party but not each and every candidate/member of AAP. To top it all, Kejriwal supports him because very obviously he is all ears to what his party member has to say, not the police or anyone else for that matter.

      A responsible MLA should have taken all possibilities into account before acting. The people of that locality are obviously genuinely concerned and their judgement will also be influenced by the problems they face and even their racial prejudices – which honestly are abundant in India. People stop and stare at foreigners in India.
      The MLA’s job is to not let passionate appeals or expressions of grievance affect his judgement but maintain calm and exercise far sightedness, when the victim (the residents here) are not in a position to. Instead he went ahead and weakened his and the residents’ case, by barging into somebody’s home who even the residents could not pin point any proof against. He is an advocate and the law minister for god’s sake! He should know!

      That they targeted ‘Africans” and foreigners is just plain and bare Racism (whether one believes is connected/unconnected crucially to the incident). And really given the way this whole issue was handled, their race doesn’t even matter anymore. It could have been Indians and Bharti’s actions wouldn’t have been justified even then.

  8. I share your concerns Aditya. But I am not sure Mohalla Sabhas have to be abandoned entirely because of these obviously crucial Ambedkarite concerns. Kejriwal himself pointed out these concerns in his long interview to TOI on the eve of his swearing in as CM: “mohalla sabhas will have to work within existing systems of law. They can’t, like khap panchayats, issue illegal orders. Then the law will kick in.”
    http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-12-26/delhi/45591927_1_lokpal-bill-congress-and-bjp-arvind-kejriwal/3

    1. No Anuj,I did not by any stretch want to suggest that the mohalla sabhas idea has to be abandoned. I just wanted to say that one cannot go about unreflectively with these ideas. Careful thought is required – and more importantly, a bit of collective thinking about them.

      1. Sameer Sharma, 17th Jan Economic Times edit page has detailed a possible blue print for the working of mohulla committees. He takes on the critical issue of identifying (how to ?) of the ‘beneficiary’ and the decision making process thereon for delivery and strengthening of the marginal people who are likely to get left and right always.

  9. Is this quote you have highlighted in bold something Somnath said or something the police have claimed that Somnath said? I dont really trust the Delhi Police and see no reason start now. As i see it, if locals in the area complain to the minister that a drug and/prostitution racket in their locality is making their lives miserable, what exactly is the minister supposed to do do if not ask the police to take action? and if the police refuses to investigate, what are we supposed to believe?

    I see no reason why someone’s race is important here? and i certainly see no reason why we should believe the police over the local population.

  10. Well, clearly not surprising that this and more of the same accord should flow out of AAP’s vigilante resurrection-ism version of democracy! That workshops and study circles should better the situation is absurd wishful thinking. I have followed your piece celebrating why the absence of stated ideological goals is vital for the AAP-brand of mass politics suggesting your acquiescence with post-ideological praxis. Chalo, lets grant you the word post-ideological but what on earth could fill in for a lack of complicated understanding of Indian society and the ills that plague it? Corruption and anti-corruption is a dangerous unmarked category that deceives us, displacing our problems into the realm of immoral political culture whereas they actually exist at the level of the social and cultural. There is a fine line between deep democracy and lynch-mob vigilantism!

  11. well put. i find this state-abetted racism very disturbing. moreover, it is ironic that here is a party that came into existence through law-based struggles. they argued for good laws and a lawful society. and here you have a law minister from AAP who is flouting laws to apparently protect the racist interests of the “aam janata” in a certain part of delhi. sad.

  12. There was a TV interview over this matter with AAP’s representative, Subramania Swamy, Kiran Bedi and others participating – though everybody except that AAP’s representative was quite critical of AAP’s role, nobody broached the fact or averment that it was against some Africans and Nigerians, etc. But whoever be it, if they indulge in drugs smuggling and other rackets police have powers to raid them, even without a search warrant. That way even AAP activists can raid and if they get hold of any such contraband goods can arrest them and report to the police. Law does not prevent or bar this. Of course, in case any excesses are committed, and if those persons are found really innocent, then police may take action against such activists for false complaints, criminal trespass etc. and the Activists have to take that risk. But when locals are saying, and a Minister is also believing and directing, the police at least should have some ears to them and act. Simply because they are Africans or Nigerians they don’t have any immunity. Only their diplomats will have the right to arrange for their defence in case they are charged with any crimes (consular assistance) and nothing more. An atithi (guest) should remain an atithi (guest) but should not turn a thief, or a killer or a drugs peddler.

    1. I am not sure if activists of any party can ‘arrest’ someone. But if drugs (or solid proof) are found I’m sure we can try to stop them from escaping. This would be valid excuse for our actions before a court. What happened here was that nothing was found. When an FIR was filed against unknown persons for this incident,and Bharti (and AAP) came under flak, the party started demanding suspension of the police officers who refused to conduct a raid first and later arrest those women.

  13. Thank you, Mr Nigam, for this thoughtful article. It is the political power, acquired by democratic process, that has intoxicated Mr Bharati. There can be no justification for involving in an unlawful act by an individual, including an elected representative of the people or a minister or an administrator. This tendency must be nipped in bud, even if admire that individual or his association for other reasons.

  14. Mohalla committees have worked in China and Venezuala and a few other countries, but the AAP version will not work as they are anarchists without any over-riding, well thought out ideology.

  15. Thanks for all the comments, Laltu, Gohwar, Joseph, Arshad, Anuj and others. And thanks, Kasimpilla for clarifying that the idea of atithi devo bhava probably refers to an intra-elite etiquette – though no modern Hindu will be able to defend it as an elitist ideal and as an idea, therefore, can be brought in to bear on a modern democratic sensibility. In other words, modern Hindus must be forced to face its implications for our times. And Mallikarjuna, this is where you are wrong. If there is any evidence of any specific crime committed by anybody then there are procedures to deal with them and nobody has the right to do what Somnath Bharti and his lot did – on the basis of mere suspicion. And it is quite inexcusable for Arvind Kejriwal to go on defending this completely anti-democratic act – which in its style smack of the Hindu right’s ways.
    Joseph, I don’t really agree with the fetishization of due process, always, in all circumstances. And it is not just about all laws being similarly amenable to misuse. This is not the place to go into a major discussion of this issue but take the well-know case of a complainant of sexual harassment against a powerful professor of political science department in Delhi University some years ago. Soon after she filed her complaint, she lost her job. She had to keep running from pillar to post to find out what was happening to her complaint. She had to violate the due process, meet people sympathetic to her cause, take the matter to the media – all of which eventually forced the University to take some action and place her complaint before the apex committee on sexual harassment. Till then the university had been shielding the sexual harasser. This is just one instance. We all encounter such cases every day. You could say that the University was violating the due process but that is always also the case – this demand is only made from the powerless.

    Vikram and Gowhar,I think I need to clarify one one point rightaway: You both seem to believe (as do many other people) that ‘being ideological’ has to do with being a thinking person and something like post-ideological can, therefore, only mean being devoid of thought and being vacuous. I use these terms very differently. In my view, ideologies as closed systems of belief, opposed in the ultimate analysis, to critical thinking of any kind. Ideologies place limits on what can be thought. A good example would be someone like Prabhat Patnaik, who is in my reckoning one of the most brilliant minds that the Left has had but whose thought sound today to be caught in some 1970s frame. To be post ideological, in my view is to be endlessly open to critical thinking – to be able to say, transcend the false twentieth century binaries like state versus market, to be able to be anti-capitalist while standing in support of dalit capitalism, in short,of daring to think differently.

    1. “And Mallikarjuna, this is where you are wrong. If there is any evidence of any specific crime committed by anybody then there are procedures to deal with them and nobody has the right to do what Somnath Bharti and his lot did – on the basis of mere suspicion.” See Section 43 of Cr.P.C. “ARREST BY PRIVATE PERSON AND PROCEDURE ON ARREST – 43(1). Any private person MAY ARREST OR CAUSE TO BE ARRESTED ANY PERSON who in his presence commits a non-bailable and cognizable offence, or any proclaimed offender, and, without, unnecessary delay, shall make over or cause to be made over any person so arrested to a police officer, or, in the absence of a police officer, take such person or cause him to be taken in custody to the nearest police station. (2) If there is reason to believe that such person comes under the provisions of section 41, a police officer SHALL RE-ARREST HIM.” (emphasis in Caps mine). (3) is not necessary to cite here. So this answers your response. This is not new to us in AP. There are several occasions when left activists seized contraband goods or illegal rice and other goods selling vehicles and compelled the police officers to arrest the persons and seize goods and prosecute for the illegal activities, etc. The point here is the Delhi Police look down on the Delhi govt., especially AAP which is an opposition party to the ruling CongI, since they are not under State Govt. but under the Central Govt. Would they have dared to behave likewise if the persons protesting and involved were CongI activists and the minister was from Sheila Dixit’s cabinet (earlier)? Here they have insulted the AAP Minister and activists and so the people at large.

    2. I think it is important to be clear about the understanding of due process. “Due process” is a limitation on people in power and authority. Individuals or groups fighting against people or institutions in power do not come under the limitation of “due process”. The case of the university professor fighting for justice in the case of harassment should not be seen as a violation of due process, this obfuscates the very concept of “due process”.
      Individuals within the AAP and the party itself while it transitions from a party of the opposition to a party in power needs to understand this very clearly. It was tragic to see somebody like Prashant Bhushan defend the indefensible yesterday on television.

      1. Joseph, it is always the powerful who violate due process and the demand is always made on the powerless. Take the case of the bank fraud on which the very same Somnath Bharti was ticked off by the CBI court, the Congress, the BJP demanded his resignation, with the media and many lawyers including those with impeccable democratic credentials coming in to say he had violated the due process by speaking to the prosecution witness. Now what was the case? As reported in the press, the internal vigilance inquiry in the Rs 116 crore fraud case in the State Bank of Mysore had found four people guilty – including managers. When the CBI took up the case, the lowest in the food chain, so to speak, was made the scapegoat and others were simply let off under pressure ‘from above’. No one – starting with the Congress and BJP to the media and our democratic lawyers thought it even necessary to comment on anything else except Bharti’s violation of due process. And you say I am obfuscating? That due process is only meant to keep a leash on the powerful. Sounds strange to my ears!
        Mallikarjuna, thanks for clarifying this. I was not aware of such a provision in law but I am still not sure it can be done on grounds of nothing but suspicion. Seizing contraband stuff seems to be different to me. Thanks anyway.

  16. Dear Aditya, This has very little to do with the “popular” or “due process”. The terrain that remains unexamined is NGO’s arrogance of spirit of intimately knowing the people they work combined with cultivated moralism to show that they are different from others when grafted into State can play havoc. They really think it is legitimate for the State to go for midnight knocks to cleanse society. Because going inside houses and knowing the neighborhood is part of the work they have cultivated over years. Now with state power they are just accelerating that modus and to play safe targeting the weakest.

  17. A letter posted in fb from Aastha Chauhan (an artist with long years of work in Khirki) –

    “As you have read/ heard there has been some sting ing in khirkee. Before the time bound judicial probe ordered by the LG is filed, there are a few facts that need to be cleared. And we need help..

    One, the RWA responsible for setting up the surveillance cameras and vigilante groups in khirkee and supporting Mr. Bharti only came into existence a year ago. The reason they got their act together was to tackle the “African menace”. The gentleman at the helm of the RWA (SL Gangia) was with the BJP, then the Congress and now with the moral high ground of AAP. I asked him at the thana what kind of a lota he was…. He was not sure what I was talking about.

    Two, Vijay Pal, the SHO at the Malviya Nagat thana listed these complaints he has received against the African residents – they play loud music and make a lot of noise, their women wear shorts and baniyaan, our daughters will also start wearing shorts, their food smells awful, they smoke marijuana they are prostitutes, we have no evidence to prove this, but we did sting operation. They have live-in partners. If they are in India, they must follow our culture. Why they have to be so “African”.

    One gentleman wants the Africans out because he recently got married and his wife does not like the hood teeming with black people. (give us white any day). We don’t want them.

    Three, I had written a letter to the DGP Bhimsen Bassi before the elections, drawing his attention to the breakdown of law and order in Khrikee. I had requested the Delhi police to be a little more sensitive and understanding towards the complaints filed by the African nationals against the local residents who beat up their women and children. Guess what? My application was actually being taken seriously. The local thana had started making an effort to listen to the complaints and find solutions. There was no reason for Mr. Bharti to skip the logical democratic sarkari letter writing process to address whatever issues he and his toli of xenophobes had. I have a copy of the letter and the response from the DGP office.

    Four, Vijay Pal (SHO) may have to resign or be posted out if the AAP tamasha continues. According to him he did the correct thing by protecting the rights of the residents of his jurisdiction. “how can I arrest someone for wearing shorts and being culturally different from us?”

    Five, for those of you who do not know Gambhir aka Aditya Kaushik,.. Gambhir is a local landlord and rents his house to Ugandan women. He makes sure all their paperwork is in place and often doubles up as their bodyguard to protect them from the local hooliganism. Mr. Bharti wanted his house raided too, because “someone said there is DRUGS and PROSTITUTION happening in his house”.

    With support from the MLA the local mob is feeling empowered and we are afraid can prove to be a threat to the Africans and the handful of locals who are supporting them.
    We need your help. This is what you can do:-

    Write a letter to Mr. Bhimsen Bassi at cp.bsbassi@nic.in. Write in support of Vijaj Pal for protecting the democratic rights of residents in his jurisdiction.

    Go to the AAP and AAP Malviya Nagar page and ask them tough questions. They have a weak debate and it will not be difficult to expose the fissures in the daleel.

    Please feel free to forward this….

  18. First is the “foreign” Blacks from Africa, then will it be North Eastern tribal folks, only to be followed by Musilms of India – is this the AAP swinging towards the right-wing or has the party elected Racists and Retrogressive individuals into office by mistake?? We need to make laws that stop “dictatorial” and “mentally unstable” leaders from hurting the country.

  19. Aditya,
    I share all the concerns you express in this article – if you hadn’t already written about it and put things so well, I probably would have written! But I would like to flag some more points.
    1) We should make a distinction between Rakhi Birla’s action of confronting the cops who failed to arrest those accused of a dowry murder, and that of Bharti’s. I would be wary of branding both as vigilantism, as many have been doing, and I tend to feel Birla’s actions are quite welcome.
    2) Kejriwal, defending Bharti in a PC yesterday, said something bizarre and disturbing – ‘rape tendencies start with sex and drug rackets’ – http://www.firstpost.com/politics/rape-tendencies-start-from-drug-sex-rackets-says-delhi-cm-kejriwal-1344031.html
    For a while now, I have been troubled by one of the fallouts of the anti-rape awakening of last year: it has (in Muzaffarnagar, Dharmapuri and elsewhere) boosted the fear of the sexual ‘other’ – Muslims, dalits and of course ‘foreigners’, ‘blacks’, ‘prostitutes’ and so on. Protecting women from rape has become an easily available pretext for all sorts of hatred and organised violence. And the fact that Kejriwal did not even pause to take some time to assess Bharti’s words and actions before defending it, is worrying. The ease with which an ‘anti-rape’ stance has become a pretext to justify xenophobia, communal and casteist prejudices and even violence, is something about which we need to be very alert.
    3) It seems 2 Nigerian men were arrested this morning for drug peddling – but from what I can make out, these are not the same men accused by Bharti that night. There’s a photograph of a black man being circulated on twitter widely, claiming he was caught by locals peddling drugs – and it’s being claimed it was this man Bharti had wanted arrested. Now, we dont know if indeed that man was caught with drugs on him; or if he was the man Bharti wanted arrested. The way the photo is being circulated is also cause for concern.
    4) Bharti’s words and actions, coming on top of recent xenophobic incidents involving Nigerians in Goa, have undoubtedly made Africans and African women vulnerable to violence. Unless the CM speaks and acts strongly to correct this trend, the possibility of more vigilante action by people against African men and women is very high. Kejriwal should in fact meet the African women who have complained of violence by AAP members, should apologise for the unwarranted cavity search etc, and should order an impartial investigation.

    1. Many of these African migrants indulge in such illegal activities and take umbrage with their ‘foreign origin’ sympathy. Such cases were reported earlier also. While it is not correct to discriminate against them on the ground of color of their skin and backwardness etc., it is also not correct to pamper them or especially disregard the intense protests and demands of the local people when they demand stern action against such miscreants.

      1. I am sorry Mallikarjuna, this is pure racist prejudice – without any evidence. Please read other comments above to understand what has been going on – especially the artist Aastha Chauhan’s letter in Jeebesh Bagchi’s comment. You also seem to take no notice of the facts and just insist on singing your on song. There was no evidence against these people; nor were there any reports filed with the police. The forced tests for drugs has also revealed a blank.

        1. The law minister’s xenophobic utterances and actions are not just dangerous, shocking and disturbing, these are outright unconstitutional.

          More disturbing however is the absence of any condemnation, whatsoever, from the leadership. The defense put up by the AAP spokespersons ( party members or the supporters) on almost every TV channel is a further cause for concern. AAP spokespersons/supporters are increasingly sounding and behaving like any other party’s spokespersons– constantly defending the indefensible. If this party is different why the Bhartis and the Vishwas are still around? What is the surety that given AAP’s fascination with numbers and its ambitious plan to fight hundreds of lok sabha seats there wouldn’t be more such people whose behavior AAP would either ignore or at worst, defend? Or expecting gender race, caste, religious sensitivities; not othering people on the basis of all of this, from ‘aam admi party’ is wrong, is ideological?
          Surely AAP’s executive committee should be a worried committee.

    2. I agree with Kavita’s opinion. Indians generally cutting across all ideological divisions, share to some extent anti African/black skin colour racism. I listen to such statements everyday among NRI indians

  20. Racism and authoritarian exercise of power without due procedure of any kind needs to be condemned in the strongest terms. Unfortunately such attitudes are common across the political spectrum and are a staple part of Indian social mores also. Both the Aam Aadmi Party as well as the proverbial Aam Aadmi will have to be challenged and made to mend their ways as part of a larger battle to change Indian society.

  21. Per interviews given by Arvind Kejriwal, the drug and narcotics act provides for, where warrant is not available, the police are supposed to surround the property and stay while one official goes to get a warrant. The police (since in collusion with the racket) were refusing to do this and just wanted to leave the campus – this is what Somnath was objecting to.

    Assuming there was a racket, the locals had complained multiple times without any support from police or politicians. Obviously, the women, if part of the racket, will come out in support of the cops and try to slur the AAP officials to make themselves the victims rather than the perpetrators.

    I think AAPs request of suspending the SHOs, while the enquiry is concluded, is valid since there is no point of committing an enquiry while those officials continue to be able to influence witnesses there.

  22. What is a bigoted mind? Is it one who jumps to conclusions on hearing something he doesn’t like WITHOUT attention to fact and reality?

    In this article, I see no mention of the ACTUAL events that took place – only claims. Aren’t there videos of the entire action? Is see no mention of Bharti’s or AAP’s point of view – only a conclusion to which Nigam jumps, based on a phrase “they are not like us”. No mention even of the point of view of those who complained to Bharti and the cops. I see no mention of the fact that, under law, the Police MUST act on a complaint of illegal activity in progress, especially where drugs are involved.

    On the other hand, this article has no dearth of presumptions about the way the local community is thinking, about the way AAP is thinking and how they should run the government. There is a presumption that if the government (a minister in the govt. is part of the govt?) is taking action, one should call it “vigilantism” – Bharti called the cops to take action against illegal activity. Does that sound like BATMAN? Does Nigam thinks that the right thing to do when his neighbour’s house is being robbed is to look the other way? Bharti called the cops to do their job but they didn’t.

    If Nigam belonged to either the Congress or the BJP, then this article makes sense – AAP is out working hard and that makes the other politicians look like rubbish.

    Bigotry involves assumptions, presumptions, conclusions and fear built around ignorance of facts.

    1. How similar you sound to the BJP and the Congress – those who criticize you are only agents of enemies! Anyway, you have already developed a blinkered vision with less than a month in power – says something about how different you are going to allow the party to be. And by the way, moral policing is what Bharti was doing – very much what VHP and Bajrang Dalis do. How people live is none of his business – nor yours.

      1. Interesting to note that you did not counter with fact or reason but chose to go once again with presumption – that I am either from the BJP. Congress, VHP, Bajrang, AAP or some other belief system. And also that AAP is “blinkered”.

        I assume this was your way of wriggling out of the pointed questions that showed you being bigoted about AAP and Somnath.

        Re the way people live being anyone’s business – In India we have the rule of law and a governed environment. I don’t want you to rob me, even if you decide that it is your business to do so. In other words, Bharti came out to ensure the rule of law – that is his and my business because it is our country. Those who don’t want to follow Indian laws can always leave or else be sent to jail.

        First, you were being bigoted, now you got personal.

        1. Here is what you said (not me):

          “If Nigam belonged to either the Congress or the BJP, then this article makes sense – AAP is out working hard and that makes the other politicians look like rubbish. ”
          And I am the one supposed to be bigoted and “getting personal”!

          And ‘facts’, of course, are only what suit you…

        2. Dear Chop Ji,
          do try and visualise the hon’ble minister’s actions in humble cartoon frame: jumping up and down in the same place (finger pointing, arm extended fwd): ‘arrest him/off with his head, (and all others like this criminal bugger)’, with the shrill indignation of a moral purist. Half of this indignation could well be a response to ‘police inaction’ and its refusal to accede to governmental intervention and power.

          But personally, I’m relieved the minister didnt eventually have his way, and was saved from an embarassing expression of power. After all, answering the political opposition and constituency could be different from explaining to media and colleagues

          ‘am inclined to believe the ‘inefficiencies’ of corruption and crime represent only the tip of the iceberg, while a large part of (global) capital flows that cream local economies and subordinate their populations are ‘legitimate’, everyday structures/processes. In such context, the enemy, sir, could well be US (tongue in check), and perhaps not those !@#$%^& dratted buggers_ (an aam member)

          *(how come Aditya Ji gets to use italics and flowery asterisks etc; a not so aam app frm wordpress?

          1. It’s quite simple: There’s a problem – drugs & prostitution in a residential area. The cops should have solved the problem over a year ago but didn’t. No other government / political body acted to solve the problem. No one in the press / media / Kafila did anything to solve it. But in one night, by taking cameras and the locals to the cops and forcing them to come to the scene of the crime in one night, Somnath did.

            Now, if you want to protect the criminals, the cops, and their bosses (Shinde & Sonia) you can point fingers at the language of some of the locals (not Somnath) or about urine samples being taken at AIIMS (not on the road). But the worst thing you can do is denigrate a good man doing his job.

            1. er, was trying to refer to woods rather than trees (as priority), but can hardly expect attention frm policy bosses…thanks

  23. What Somnath Bharti and his supports have done is clearly shameful and ridiculous. To take police actions and prosecute any wrong-doing, we have Police and Judiciary respectively. Somanath Bharti was clearly none of them at the point of his and his supporters’ wrong-doings on Africans in Khirkee.
    It seems that AAP is no different from BJP in terms of jingoism and moral policing. It is all the more unfortunate that Arvind Kejriwal has supported Somanath Bharti in this case. I feel that if AAP as a political party wants to have a clear differentiation from existing political parties, it should clearly condemn what Somnath Bharti and his supports did in Khirkee. Also, AAP should apologies for this behavior of AAP team members and specifically of Somnath Bharti.
    AAP needs to show some level of maturity and should clearly stop practicing populist behavior to become the Hero of the mobs. AAP members cannot take on and bypass the role of important pillars of our democracy i.e. Executive and Judiciary, no matter how inefficient that might be. AAP clearly needs to do some serious introspection of its ideology and its denigrating stands on some recent issues beginning from disowning of Prashant Bhushan’s comment on J&K and now blatant and shameful behavior of Somnath Bharti and his supporters. AAP should clearly start introspecting before it becomes too late for any redemption.

  24. What the minister did was wrong. He should have followed the due process. But, your comment saying that “attitudes about purity and vice are among other things, structured by their caste position as well” is absurd. In which “caste position” is prostitution/drug peddling considered a virtue and not a vice ?

  25. Incredulous…especially if one thought politics and pol. parties in India were eventually maturing! Racist slants can then be denied publicly, (but still be used) to target particular nationalities/countries (instead).
    Thanks for this piece, Aditya Nigam

  26. Aditya Nigam, your article and responses to comments present a very clear vision of the dangers involved in AAP type activism where the preservers of the law become their violators. You make a sage like comment that ‘an ideology can limit the unbiased thinking’. I am surprised that some of the readers are not convinced by your point of view. No doubt, in India the agencies that are supposed to enforce the law can be inefficient or sometimes act against the law. The police department in particular, but also many other government departments, fail to address the problems encountered by the common man. But it does not mean an individual, and in this case a law minister, can take laws in his hand. Unfortunately, such acts would compound the problems facing the people and not resolve them. Would the readers who oppose your views support the mafia leaders and dons who listen and offer support to people whom the law enforcing agencies have failed? Would such readers support the unlawful killing (e.g., fake encounter) of a dacoit or Goonda just because of people’s complaint? Or would such reader justify the killing of an accused murderer by some one, particularly by a minister, if police is incapable of arresting the accused and presenting him in court? I do not see how the unlawful actions of the Delhi law minister are any different. I believe, Mr Bharati should be arrested and presented in a court to face the legal consequences of his actions. Finally, I am curious to know what evidence Mr Bharati found against the drug use and prostitution of the African women, although that does not absolve him from his illegal action. Also, the Delhi police must be accountable for not arresting Mr Kejriwal, his cabinet members and supporters when they violated the prohibitory orders during dharana.

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