Racist villagers versus hapless Africans and other simplistic binaries

The residents of Khirki are angry. They say they have been misrepresented, their grievances are not being given a patient hearing because the rest of us are doing politics over them. Nobody even wants to hear that they could have a case, that the story could be about more than just skin colour. Kafila and Times Now alike will tell you they are a bad, racist, evil lynch mob who deserve to be disenfranchised.

Even if that is what they are, will the summary dismissal of what they are saying be of help in resolving the situation? Forget the debates about the Aam Aadmi Party. As their elected representative, Somnath Bharti with all his vigilante zeal was doing what representative democracy makes representatives do. The people were making their voice heard through their elected representative. But we don’t want to hear their voice. If we did, we’d realise what the area needs is dialogue and understanding. All the problems with Africans and others in a 14th century ‘urban village’ next to 21st century shopping malls need a conversation that won’t come if we don’t want to appreciate the complexity of a social situation. By refusing to do so, we are being as unhelpful as the vigilantism of Somnath Bharti.

But at least we are thinking about Khirki. As for Sagarpur, where on earth is that?

These last few days, you have been fed one-sided angst by a media eager to help Narendra Modi overcome the pro-AAP mood, by pre-ideological leftists eager to bring down the AAP house so that Narendra Modi can come to power and they can do proper full-time chest-beating over fascism, by big industry already unhappy to see the AAP government move against Walmart. Is there a bigger picture?

43 thoughts on “Racist villagers versus hapless Africans and other simplistic binaries”

  1. In the midst of rather opinionated articles your GROUND REPORTING put things in perspective. Voices from the left have been unduly harsh and hostile to AAP. From others it was expected.


  2. Your scroll.in posting had few ‘thick description’ and that gave some sense of the place. Have you said anything in this Kafila Post, besides trying to fix your (AAP’s) opponents on the ground of ‘authentic’ anger of Khirki village people?


  3. thnx shivam – its this complexity that deserve to be highlighted and none of the activists yet able to deal with this in any of the article previously published… this is really sad. Rather they chose to continuously attack on something that was so engraved fundamentally in any of the cultures around the world. Sometimes a thought that shops of these activists are on verge of shutting down make them helplessly attack the way they do in such simplistic manner. Sorry to put it this way, but I also did not see any urge for setting up such dialog as an initiative from these activists. And if change has to be brought it has to be through governance at mohalla level otherwise we can expect no change at all. Can we see new possibilities of dialog and interaction when there is a government that is in continuous state of flux ? Why not think of this as an opportunity to widen the debate of such social situation with in and with the other ?


    1. Aastha Chauhan, who posted one of the previous articles on Kafila, appears to have done precisely what you are calling for – a dialogue etc. in Khirki. She approached Somnath Bharti for assistance with dealing with racism on the ground, only to be ignored. This was precisely two days before the raid. You should read her article here.


  4. Yes, most Kafila readers have no idea where is Khirki and what is the basic issue. Unfortunately the BJP driven big media has exploited the issue to one of racism against African residents of Khirki to tarnish AAp. And the so called feminsts who often display total disregard for the indigenous scial values of Indians to appear liberated have swallowed it wholesale.

    Khirki is a village near the posh locality of Hauz Khas where many posh houses/apartments and shopping centers exist inhabited by libereal Indians and many foreigners. The lifestyle of these folks in ultra-liberal in matters of men-women mixing, drinking parties, dancing, music late into the night.

    Khirki is a village from medieval times. The tomb of the 14th century revered sufi saint Chiragh Dehlavi, the teacher of Khwaja sahib of Ajmer is located here. So are tombs of some Muslim kings of that wra. Also a few revered Hindu temples are located here. Muslims and Hindus who live in Khirki are traditional people, with very different cultural norms from those of Hauz KIhas ultra liberal people.

    Hauz Khas is an expensive area to live, so many foreigners live in Khirki so that they can avail of the Hauz Khas night clubs, restaurants, parties. For them night time is time to party, music, dance, free mixing of men-women to have a good time. For the Indian residents they are family people who want to put off lights at 10 AM and go to sleep; wake up early in the morning, pray and go to work.

    Among the foreigners and ultraliberal Indians having sexual relations outside marriage is normal and they feel doing it in their apartments is normal. For Indian traditional residents of Khirki this is utrocious behavior that is destroying their society. These people have complained to police for 2 years to stop this vagrancy and immorality from their neghourhood, but no use.

    Granted that Bharti was crude and insensitive, but Kavita Krishnan and her friends have gone off track and in their zeal for ultra liberalism they are trying to defame and degrade AAP as irresponsible racists. That is awful. Why did the Womens’ committee allow a defeated Congress MLA woman to exploit this opportunity to degrade Bhaarti and AAP? Are these liberals maligning AAP to support BJP? Bhaarti and other KLhirki people may not be articulate in being careful with their words, but to call them racists and oppressors of women is an extreme in irresponsibility.


  5. What does this equating of Kafila to Times now mean? Kavitha Krishnan who represents a radical party that has a tradition which dates back to 70’s, has termed the attack on Africans as racism. Same is the case with Sanhati, EPW editorial, DSU Jnu, and individuals associated with kafila like Suddhbrata sengupta, Adityanigam and a lot of others. Brinda karat has compared this kind of vigilantism to that of Sri Ram Sena. Have all of these people got it wrong?. AAP’s defence is like hierarchical cadre parties. Do they mean that CPIML liberation to Kafila to DSU JNU to Sanhati are all pro- walmart. Racism can only be understood by those who have experienced it in one or other forms. That is why the whole nursing community from Kerala is on the street. Even CPIM has come out in support of them. Are all of them wrong? Mallika Sarabhai ,AAP member herself has come out against racist comments. Are all these people on the payroll of corporates?. It is better for AAP to have a little respect to opposition. Colonialism.vs 3rd world, brahmnism vs dalit, white skin racism vs black, male chauvinism vs female rights…. all such binaries do exist though wishing away binaries in toto may be fashionable. So as Ambedkar has rightly observed, mohalla continue to host the most dangerous ideologies of caste, patriarchy and various other prejudices which can trample justice.(EPW emphasised this point)So binaries like majoritarian localism vs the other do exist in India. When castist, patriarchal or racist incidents happen, it has been the tradition all over the world by progressive people to criticise it. What is wrong in it?


  6. Shivam, please leave Kafila to leftist intellectuals instead of writing provocative nonsense intended to promote your new venture scroll dot in.

    Your arguments don’t make any sense at all.

    1) “media eager to help Narendra Modi overcome the pro-AAP mood” – It was media that propped up AAP. Media is still giving them more positive coverage than any other party. Modi has received far less positive coverage than AAP. Not a single story about him goes without the mention of 2002 (which is good). Don’t blame media for AAP’s Ram Sene-style populist tactics. The party should be criticized when it deserves to be.

    2. “pre-ideological leftists eager to bring down the AAP house so that Narendra Modi can come to power”: This is laughable. We want Modi to come to power so that we can criticize him? Don’t be so desperate. If you want to publish three links to your new venture, just be forthright about it. There is no need to write 3 paragraphs of gibberish and sneak in 3 links to scroll dot in.

    3. “by big industry already unhappy to see the AAP government move against Walmart” You do realize that even Modi (and BJP) are against FDI in retail, right? Another fail.


    1. When I first read this piece, there were just the first two comments congratulating Shivam on his “GROUND REPORTING.” I was so dumbstruck by the sheer inanity of this piece by someone I’ve regarded rather favorably earlier that I could just not bring myself to respond (besides, I think I also fell for the scam.in bait) – but glad people have called him out on an obvious poor job of a post…hurried, simplistic, moralizing.

      “These last few days, you have been fed one-sided angst by a media…” – does Shivam mean Kafila included? I only read Kafila, you see…so…

      also…”being-fed” is one thing and “not-ingesting” quite another…


  7. At last some sane voices from left.Before passing judgements based on big media coverage, you should do your own field research.Present picture of both sides.In other one-sided articles on Kafila, they declared locals racists, anti-woman.When Madam Jagmati was confronted by Local women, she was not able to give straight answers as you are demanding from AAP. She as all leftist are saying, you can’t raid at night, when all illicit acivities take place at night, how can you catch them during day? If you are really different from big media, then stay different.


  8. Opposing Modi is necessary but why do you expect the left to defend what Somnath Bharti did and what “most of the villagers” at Khirki think? Why should left defend Mr. Kejriwal when he comes on Tv and defend Somnath with atrocious arguements? I am sure if anyone else would have used the same arguments as Mr.Kejrival did to defend his minister your opinion would have been different. Its not only about Somnath its about racism and partiarchy. I wonder what prevents Kejriwal to just issue an apology as Pratikhsa argues in Kafila.His apology might inhance the chances of the dilaouge you are talking about. Left’s criticism will not bring down the house of AAP their refusal to learn and arrogance might.


  9. Shivam Vij’s defence of the Aam Aadmi Party sounds to me exactly like the line that used to be, and still is, trotted out by the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the CPI(M) – no wrong can be done by them, because, they are the only forces that can counter the onslaught of the fascist BJP. Similarly, the Trinamool Congress, in West Bengal, also acts with impunity, because it styles itself as the only party that could defeat the entrenched social fascism of the CPI(M). In Kashmir, key leaders of the separatist camp have at times betrayed the works kind of authoritarian and fascist mindsets, which go unquestioned because they ‘confront’ the unmistakable brutality of the Indian state’s military occupation of the valley. Each one of these political formations, at many points in their careers, have cultivated constituencies that are xenophobic and fascist in nature. The CPI(M) and Congress’s patronage of the worst kind of Muslim Fundamentalism in the name of fighting Hindutva (vis-a-vis, say Tasleema Nasreen in Bengal, or say, Salman Rushdie in Rajasthan). And if you want to know what an unreconstructed critic of the AAP like me thinks of the CPI(M)’s social fascism or the Congress’s patronage of Muslim Fundamentalism, or the fascist edge of Kashmiri nationalism – you only need to look at the Kafila archive.

    The SP’s patronage of a whole class of thuggery that terrorizes dalit communities in UP, whlle the Trinamool Congress’s wholesale take over of the criminal-politician nexus from the defeated CPI(M) points to the impasse that West Bengal stands in today. The reactionary discourse of each of these parties is sought to be excused, because somehow or the other – they are fighting the ‘greater’ evil. Now, the AAP, which is proving to be just another Indian political party, is showing its true colours by being just like the rest. The more things change, the more things stay the same. The point is not to throw up one’s hands in exasperation and retreat into some post-cynical corner. The point is not to choose one’s own brand of ‘lesser evil’ either. The point, at times like these is to demand and shape a politics and an ethics that is worthy of the idea of a democratic reconstitution of our society. This can never, in my opinion, be done in the name of some ‘abstraction’ called ‘the people’. Such that ‘the people’ of Khirki extension become a substitute for thinking about what it means for communities and individuals with different lifestyle choices and provenances can live together. It can only be done by tackling each source of oppression as it is, without hierarchies. If you create a hierarchy that places corruption at the top without addressing the structural inequalities that beset the social world, you will inevitably hit out at the way the working poor live at the edges of the law. Is India the kind of society that allows Africans to freely emigrate, to take jobs, to live and settle and raise families and networks of friends in an open manner. India is a state that refuses to recognize the right to political asylum. If you are an African emigrant who is fleeing a war, choosing to come to India, because it is even more difficult now to go to the US or to France, and once you are here, if the one means of making a living (because you do not have the right papers, and because no one will give you a job) why on earth will you not join the sex trade. And what is so wrong with the sex trade anyway? Of course, you will be confronted with a moral brigade that will attack you, because the discourse of hospitality and neighbourliness is not actually part of the discourse of corruption and purity. And since you cannot enter a farmhouse in Sainik Farms, or conduct a sting in the lobby of the Oberoi Hotel, you might as well round up some women in the streets of Khirki to show how good you are in your fight against corruption. There is another name for this kind of operation, and it is called ‘class warfare’.

    The AAP and its apologists in their pursuit of ‘the people’ have to necessarily dehumanize those people who do not and will not fit in with their arbitrary designation of who ‘the people’ of the chosen moment are. Today it is Africans in Khirki, tomorrow it will be Bangladeshis in some settlement and day after tomorrow it will be those who refuse to stand up and salute the tricolour flag when called upon to do so by some muffler wearing mafia don.

    And as for the simple, uncomplicated, authentic views of the bona fide members of the RWA of Khirki extension, they have their echoes in the simple, uncomplicated, authentic views of the lynch mobs that attack Dalits, Muslims, Christians, Homosexuals, across the length and breadth of this country. When Dara Singh burnt Graham Staines and his sons alive, he was feted as a local hero in the part of Orissa where this happened, because he was tackling the ‘menace’ of missionaries. In the near future, when the AAP begins hounding out ‘illegal’ aliens from amongst the working poor of Delhi, they too will be feted as heroes.

    Fascism is a mindset that produces a homogeneity at the cost of nuance and individual difference. When I see the mob that screeches its One Day Mat a Ram, and goes after Africans with its broom and wears its funny hat, I know exactly what I see. I saw it in 1984 when mobs led by Congress leaders in Delhi chanted the unforgettable slogan – ‘Hindu Muslim Bhai Bhai – Yeh Sikh Qaum Kahan Se Aai’. I see it when I see Narendra Modi threaten everybody with his bluster, and when his followers gloat. I see it in Mamata Bannerjee and in the CPI(M). I see it in Owaisi and in Togadia, and now, I see it in those who are repressing their own disappointment at the failure of their chosen party’s promise to be one with a difference and transforming it into a rage against those who choose to say that they know a hollow void when they see one. Unlike the fascist satraps of all the mainstream political parties of this country, the recent apologists of the AAP’s racism in the name of ‘communitarian’ truths, need as much therapy as they do politics. In the end, if they choose not to see a therapist, they, and their politics, will suffer most of all. That is not something that makes me happy, it makes me, actually, very sad.


    1. Mr. Sengupta’s defence of himself and some of the left intellectuals, who have all joined the corporate big business bandwgon to discredit AAP, is silly and self-righteous. By all means criticize Somnath’s Bharati’s action, but to equate his actions to the entire organization called AAP, calling them racists, misogynists, labeling AAP a band of khap panchayats, reactionaries, a ‘failure’ , leaders of a mob with pitch-forks, mad, dangerous, etc, is going too far. All that can be said of Somnath’s actions is that he made a really bad mistake. His intervention into the area has made the social situation worse, but his actions were not intended to be racist. The question of racism in Khirki is a larger societal question and should not be restricted to AAP.

      Some people really need to pause and consider whose agenda they are really serving by their no-holds barred attacks on AAP.


    2. As usual Suddhbrata’s are the only sane views I see here. I always get a new perspective by reading you.


  10. And on another note, nowhere, in Kafila at least, have I ever seen a call for the residents of Khirki, or anywhere else for that matter to be disenfranchised. I would not call for the disenfranchisement of thugs like Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, why would I ask for the disenfranchisement of people who vote for Somnath Bharti. Everyone is free to vote for fascits, as much as they are free not to vote fo them.

    It would be interesting, on the other hand, to hear and endorse a call for granting full citizenship and voting rights to the long term Nigerian, Ugandan, Senegalese, Congolese, Afghan, Yemeni, Iranian, Uzbek, Bangladeshi, French and German residents of Delhi. Many of them are staying here on a long term basis, and contribute to life and the local economies of the places where they stay with their labour. I would be happy to see a call for the extension of franchise and full citizenship rights to these people, who are our neighbours, friends, colleagues, comrades and sometimes, relatives, just like everybody else.


    Shuddhabrata Sengupta


  11. Well i have to say i’m deeply dissapointed by the tenor of this piece and the deliberate misrepresentation of the protest of several people who had a lot of hope from AAP and were actually deeply troubled by this incident. Is there voice to be merely dismissed as ‘loony left ‘ and armchair academics” . For several years now , left has used the same strategies to silence dissent of any kind – it strengthens right wing neoliberal forces according to them – and what has been the result – we are now heading towards a phenomenal rise of these forces !. How about them turning back and saying”They say they have been misrepresented, their grievances are not being given a patient hearing because the rest of us are doing politics over them.Even if that is what they are, will the summary dismissal of what they are saying be of help in resolving the situation? ” .
    While in several instances in the past, this could have been a legitimate response , in this case its a gross mirepresentation of what a section of so called ‘radical left’ was trying to do , many of them wanting to support AAP and deeply dismayed by this turn of events. It is ironic that we say “As their elected representative, Somnath Bharti with all his vigilante zeal was doing what representative democracy makes representatives do.” when we have always strongly condemned other representatives doing the same to escalate fragile balances in complex social situations. Nobody has denied that khirki village reesidents problems are not genuine , behind every ‘communal, classisct, casteist ” issue, also lie genuine issues of people caught in vortex of forces larger than them . But all everybody said ‘THIS WAS NOT THE WAY TO RESOLVE ITBY SOMNATH BHARTI” , complex situations require complex interventions , not ‘mob vigilantism’ . And just because AAP has emerged now , it is exempt from such criticism ?- infact if its a force with a difference , it needs to take these issues seriously right now – it was AAP’s reactions and continued absolute defence of Modi which made things worse, not the fact that bharti’s action was criticised. By behaving the way you did , you played right into the hands of these forces you mention ! Why blame people who chose to simply and unequivocally point that out ?
    Nobody has even really branded ‘khirki residents’ while making a general point about prejudices which are deeply entrenched in society – and nobody still blames the residents , its the ‘minister’ who’s actions have been criticised – who’s much more than a elected representative – and infinitely more powerful than those african women , even if they are part of so called rackets – if anything, they are even more vulnerable than khirki residents in this game . If anybody had to be targetted for the issues of those residents , it was the authorities responsible , with the power of changing things. And pointing that out , does not imply playing into hands of the ‘right wing’. Many of those criticising this interventions have worked for years in the field and been part of far more thought out and grounded social interventions. If AAP and its people continue to behave as if they are merely victims of bigger conspiracies ,and hence criticism has no place here, they are no different from several other forces- left and right- which have used the same excuse not to set there house in order first ! And AAP has to remeber , its no longer the AAM AADMI but an AAM AADMI givernment .
    By turning the argument around using fallacious logic like “Even if that is what they are, will the summary dismissal of what they are saying be of help in resolving the situation? ” – , you do not escape accountability in a situation in a situation with clearly unequal power dynamics in terms of teh targets and victims of this action ! We would have all been with AAP if it had come up with a carefully planned, strategic and sensitive intervention . If it had even targetted the real culprits directly – the police , the state and the mafia – instead of women as much victims of these forces.
    You do not bring change by consolidating ranks against all criticism and being defiant in return – the crucial test for AAP is how it responds to such criticisms which come from people who are themselves its well wishers .
    It is nobody’s case that Khirki village and sagarpur etc do not require social interventions to resolve genuine issues of different sections involved , but certainly not something which makes it worse . And then turn around and attack those pointing out the problem in the first place !


  12. The Discourse Shift and Who is responsible for it
    How the discourse has shifted from bijli, pani, police, lokpal, corruption, governance, women’s security to racism, prostitution, drugs, vigilantism, anarchism. Now the only story in town is Somnath Bharati. Only important thing is what are the things he is guilty of and those who defend him? DISCOMS’ petition in the court and its rejection only find place in some inside pages of newspapers.
    First question is: does it matter if the discourse has thus shifted?
    My answer is that at this moment that is the only thing that matters, in the political sense. If the AAP party somehow manages to shift the attention back to governance and empowerment of ordinary people vis-à-vis structures of governance, then only will it be able to play a positive role, as it has done till now. AAP tried its best to shift the discourse back to police with its dharna. But the dharna itself was declared illegitimate by both the power establishment and the knowledge establishment, and also the justice establishment. All seem to be quite clear that dharna by a ‘party in power’ or ‘party in governance’ is illegitimate. Is AAP a ‘party in governance’? What powers does it have and what powers it doesn’t, as a party in power in Delhi state? What government power it has excercised till now and not excercised? Did the party exercise any power when Somnath Bharti did what he did? Besides government powers, AAP also has ‘people’s power’. One can say Bharati misused people’s power in Khirkee extension. Many feel AAP also misused people’s power in dharna for fixing responsibility of Delhi police. My opinion is that AAP is a ‘party in governance’ in a limited sense only and it has used the government power it has in positive ways in this brief period. As for people’s power, I think it was fully justified in the dharna. About Khirkee happenings I am not sure. But there is a likelihood of a misuse of people’s power. But I am willing to wait till the judicial inquiry meanwhile gathering more information and better understanding of what happened. But I believe that non-foreigner Khirkee residents also have a side. I am not ready to assume that the whole thing came about only because they are against ‘sex’ and Africans.
    One can understand the tactics of power establishment when they want to shift public debate away from corruption and governance. But what about the knowledge establishment? Knowledge establishment consists of people and institutions who are supposed to know what is right and what is wrong for the society. They are activists, ideologues, academics, media anchors, commentators, journalists etc. Their power consists in ‘expression’. Power establishment works through invisible means. On the media, they have spokespersons who partake of the discourse in combination with the knowledge establishment. There are times when they are in conflict. Knowledge establishment was stunned by the AAP performance in Delhi elections and was beginning to warm up to it, though with some difficulty. Because, AAP is not sufficiently anti-capitalist, not sufficiently anti-communal, not sufficiently pro-dalit, not sufficiently anti-racist, not sufficiently feminist and so on. They do not want to wait for the result of judicial inquiry. They need AAP to prove itself to them NOW to be sufficiently anti-racist and feminist first of all. What is happening in the rest of society is apparently disconnected from other issues. The society itself has to be educated first before they can assume to partake of governance.
    I am aware that I am using very crude categories – power establishment, knowledge establishment, people’s power etc. etc. I am not going to apologize either. After all AAP rose on the basis of a very crude category – ‘aam aadmi’. This category of ‘aam aadmi’ is a discredited category in social sciences, if not completely absent. The knowledge establishment had no clue that this category can mobilize such political power from the grounds up.
    I am not saying that the knowledge establishment should not be vigilant against racist, patriarchal values even if it is coming from ‘aam aadmi’ and aam aadmi party. I am just saying that they are being blind as to the real dynamics of society, politics, governance responding to which AAP rose in the first place. Kejriwal may not have good theories of rape, but he may be able to drastically reduce rape and burning of women. I am just saying that there should be some difference between what the BJP and Congress spokespersons say and what they say about the AAP. When they write open letters about racist and misogynist minister they should declare support for the initiative to make police responsible. They should show some awareness of the ‘just below the surface’ dynamics of power that is being played out not just in Khirkee extension but in the whole of India. They should also have in their focus the real political system that is operating today in which AAP is intervening and of which AAP is not entirely a part. Maybe it is too much to expect from the knowledge establishment. After all, AAP’s existence itself is a proof of their powerless and disconnected ‘knowledge’ and AAP’s demise will prove them right. Then they can endlessly go on arguing whether or not to vote for Congress to stop Modi.
    Avinash Jha
    25th January 2014


    1. I’m not sure if you have really read most pieces and statements and opinions for most of them endorse the demand for police reform as well . Nobody is being blind to ‘real dynamics’ over here – they are just saying that classic old strategies of ‘tactical responses’ for the ‘greater common good’ have not worked in the past nor will they work now. If AAP as a dispensation has worked, it has not been by adopting any standard practice followed by most political parties – so now if it chooses to give standard responses which other parties typically give to genuine criticisms and concerns – it will write its own demise. This is AAP’s real test – whether it can keep changes in modus operandi which brought it to power alive through responsible , open and reflexive interventions or when push comes to shove , behave like everyone else and demand blind loyalties to its actions , because they are actions of AAP members !


    2. You probably chose to miss the fact that the open letters – all of them – did in fact express support for initiatives to make police accountable. And we’ve loudly, publicly opposed the BJP/Congress idea that a CM on a dharna represents anarchy.


      1. I didn’t choose to, but I did miss the expression of support for making police accountable, at least in the open letter that is posted here. Maybe I didn’t ‘hear’ such expressions of support in all the noise that was generated.


        1. These kind of responses are what are actually making us even more wary than Somnath bharti’s action ! Every dispensation which comes through a process of social engineering would reflect the biases and prejudices entrenched in society , there will be some actions like this which will be a crucial test of its ability to emerge as a progressive force, and If you aim to be a party with difference , you have to tackle it head on ! Its AAP’s and its sympathisers defences which are becoming absurd now, which are making people rethink its support !
          So in a classic CPIM style politics , when we talk about Nandigram , we also have to talk about every wrong done by other parties in the same breath , qualify it so many times that the point is lost simply because its the CPI(M) and the onus is not on them , but on us , even in face of a politically , idealogically and morally indefensible action to ensure we do not strengthen other forces which are far worse !!! What about the onus on AAP to reach out to progressive forces !
          And even if people still try and make larger points while trying to place a clearly indefensible action in perspective- i have seen how many times, in every forum, kavita and others have raised objections about decrying dharnas, ” dignty of office ‘ kind of arguments and how not once did they brand or target ‘khirki residenst’ specifically nor admit that there might not be genuine issues involved – all that has to be dismissed as mere tokenism according to Shivam Vij ! Why ? Because they didnt unequivocally make their support for AAP clear in every sentence critiquing any action by AAP ! i may disagree with kavita and others at times, but their reactions were definitely not the one ‘s that they would have if a BJP/Congress member had done the same . Yet the demand is still only on them to prove they are not strengthening other forces by merely critiquing an action which we would have ripped others apart for !
          So here even qualified criticism is tokenism ! So be it , then i just wish that AAP supporters had also come up with atleast ‘mere tokenism’ instead of blind support and an article like this adopting the strategy ‘ offence is the best defense !!!” minus even tokenism !


      2. Shouldn’t the open letter have also endorsed the actions of Rakhi Birla at Sagarpur? At least then one would hear less of things like ‘MLA’s shouldn’t go visiting police stations at night’ and ‘police should be left alone to do its job’.


  13. by pre-ideological leftists eager to bring down the AAP house so that Narendra Modi can come to power and they can do proper full-time chest-beating over fascism: As an AAP supporter and donor, I am relieved that ultra lefties of Kafila are opposed to the party. A trademark feature of such people is to protest (in Delhi comfort of course, try Lucknow sometimes) against anyone in power.Those in power are good or bad is immaterial because the system has to be branded as unfair and they have no stake in improving it. If AAP had kafila type arm chair support, I would have worried about their intention to do any actual work on ground and all we would see are photographs of same 20-30 people protesting against one thing or the other but never doing anything to bring about change. In sengupta’s response, the contempt and derision for common man (?) who he claims to be representing is absolutely unbelievable. AAP is still in formation phase, join and guide/morph it if you really believe in bringing about change rather than talking about it in conferences.


  14. Shivam,
    Just one little fact: it is AAP that chose to make the SHO of Khirki, not Sagarpur, the example of un-accountable policing; a hero of Bharti not Birla. That’s what has forced us to respond to Khirki at such length. One has to tell truth to power at precisely the point where power closes its ears. Expressing misgivings and holding power accountable to the highest standards, is actually a true gesture of friendship. AAP is not introspecting at the misgivings of friends like you Shivam, or even I (I’m no enemy, believe me). It is instead encouraging us to feel that such criticism amounts to making room for fascism or wanting to destroy AAP. This is sad because we’ve all seen similar scripts before, havent we?
    And our criticism of AAP isn’t going to damage AAP electorally – after all AAP’s pandering to anti-African racism or anti-Bangladeshi prejudice or moral policing, is likely to further embolden potential Modi voters to give AAP a try. So our criticism doesnt damage AAP in its contest with Modi. Will it not create fertile ground for ‘full scale’ fascism when a party with high credibility like AAP, uses that credibility to defend and legitimise racism and xenophobia? That’s another question.
    I’m not at all dismissive of the concerns of Khirki residents, and have never called them a bunch of racists. But there is evidence of organised political racism by the RWA leaders there, and I wonder why that was less of a concern to AAP than, say, sex work? I myself, in my own party, have come across instances of moral policing and so on by our voters/supporters: the difference has been that there have been swift attempts to correct and reorient such tendencies rather than defend them and worse, set them up as a model, as it happening in Bharti’s case. Had the AAP so chosen, Khirki’s people need not have seen Bharti as a crusader. I believe Khirki’s people are capable of reflection and introspection; AAP perhaps does not.
    One last point: as a women’s movement activist, I see myself having the thankless job of taking up causes that are often unpopular, and where one’s own friends or friendly forces are sometimes implicated. I get much pain for this, often times, since friends often see this as betrayal. But I see no way out it.
    Kavita Krishnan


  15. Shivam Viz,

    When you ask to understand the complexity of the social situation, I think it is ironical when you yourself create binaries. I am an AAP voter. I also am a Narendra Modi critic (quite vociferously so). However, I have criticised AAP on the Somnath Bharti issue (and many others) and will continue to do so till this matter is appropriately investigated and dealt with. This I do for my identity as a woman who would feel scared in the event of unidentified people barging into her house on false allegations.

    By introducing Modi into a debate which is clearly about women’s rights, it is you who is creating simplistic understanding of events. I am sorry to tell you but wake up, it is 2014 and women can speak for themselves if they feel threatened by a situation. They are not paid soldiers for Modi (or any other political entity). They are not talking for someone but only for themselves.

    Request you and your brethren to not make this into an issue about people against democratic politics or as people for Modi. It is a woman’s issue because what Bharti did is rape under new Justice Verma guidelines and needs to explain his actions as he is an elected member in the Delhi government.



    Shivangi Narayan
    Governance Now

    PS: MEA will write a similar mail to you. I think the binaries that need to be looked into are yours.


    1. So now people are accusing Bharati of rape?

      Activist groups may have been right about issues relating to how women were treated that night and about racism embedded in the allegations against the African community, both of which are serious issues needing consideration, but this anti AAP thing has now become a farce.


  16. Wow ! she has merely said that the action of running after women , nabbing and harassing of them by a mob amounts to rape under the new justice varma guidelines ! And that is a simple fact and a point made to proove what AAP has gotten away with because of lurking sympathies in people’s minds. In any other case instead of asking for bharti being reprimanded and asked to just resign, one would have actually filed a case of inciting sexual harassment if not ‘rape’ against Bharti . And please remember this comment , has come in response to the attack in your article almost accusing everyone criticising AAP as promoting Modi and BJP and similar attacks by AAP trolls elsewhere – that is what is a farce !


    1. I agree that Somnath Bharti shouldn’t be law minister of Delhi after his midnight raid but if his actions amount to rape why is there no FIR yet? Why haven’t one of the self righteous saviours of liberal democracy from AAP fascism gone to the police and filed FIR. Please also quote from the amended rape laws to substantiate your charge and hope you realize the Justice Verma ‘guidelines’ said a lot of things that aren’t law. Nevertheless, do quote from Justice Verma ‘guidelines’ to show how Mr Bharti committed ‘rape’. Thank you


      1. Every debate about women’s right is laden with contradictions. In the context of this incident the misogynist attitude of the residents of Khirki residents is being blamed. It is true that the residents should not be hounding out women just because they are engaging in prostitution. With this I do agree. But then there is a bigger question when we talk about equality which I being a woman myself have not been able to answer. The women’s rights activists who are speaking for greater acceptance of the prostitutes, just as they should, must have an answer to the question which is that, if and when such acceptance is achieved, whether it is also acceptable to them if a man assumes any unknown woman to be a prostitute… whether it is acceptable to ask (I do not mean impose here) any woman, of sexual favor in exchange of money. This is an actual possibility if flesh trade goes on in a neighbourhood. So, not only do you need to ask people to be accepting of prostitution as a legitimate profession, one also needs to ask women in general to be comfortable with the idea of being assumed to be a prostitute. If the latter is not achievable the former isn’t either.


  17. Let me tell you what is in my mind.I am follower of Kafila for 3 years.In my first post, I admitted Bharti appears wrong on the face of it. But without corroborative evidence when there were 4 cameras nobody recorded the alleged crime.Is it possible, the way our media behaves? But my ultra-leftist friends went in overdrive and declared AAP racist and misogynist.It clearly gives us impression that they are pulling leg of AAP on behalf of Congress, which is afraid of loosing permanently Delhi vote to AAP.
    Nobody has problems with prostitution, OK.But when rowdies make your daily life hell then your perception may change.I want to see these people, those don’t any problem with prostitution to live in red light areas of Delhi and enjoy their life.If they don’t want to move from their comfort zones and want to give moral lectures to others than they are nothing more than Hypocrites.


    1. Really – you mean to say you didnt see the running after and nabbing of two women nor hear eye witness accounts ?- for your information , even bharti has not denied those actions – infact proclaimed them -so first get your facts straight. Secondly accusing others of being sold out or making a case for problems of khirki residents is not going to take you anywhere , how many times do people have to say ,whatever the problems , you cannot act in this manner to resolve them ? Because you end up escalating a already serious situation , consolidate racial biases and make things worse for everyone living there .
      The problem was with the action and the defence of that action by the party – there are hundreds of serious issues which people face living in different parts of the world – but such actions are not the answer – especially not in a constitutional democracy . Not criticising and denouncing the act is not going to help anyone and sets even more dangerous precedents.
      If people dont get this very simple fact, nothing can be done about it !


  18. “Just one little fact: it is AAP that chose to make the SHO of Khirki, not Sagarpur, the example of un-accountable policing; a hero of Bharti not Birla. That’s what has forced us to respond to Khirki at such length.”
    Every statement of kejriwal & yogendra yadav spoke about the sagarpur incident & berated the police for it. Both made front page news, but the English media & news channels chose to play up the Bharti incident after Day One, day after day, ad nauseum. They didn’t even bother to interview the Sagarpur victim’s family. Indian express did put the Sagarpur incident on Page one later – only to point out that AAP took up the case because the victim had been their landlady, as if that was a crime. kejriwal also spoke about the Danish woman’s rape again & again.


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