Guest Post by AASTHA CHAUHAN, MALINI KOCHUPILLAI, and several AFRICAN RESIDENTS OF DELHI
Dear Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, Mr.Yogendra Yadav and Aatishi Marlena,
Being witness to the events occuring in Khirkee this past month, we, a group of artists, architects, activists and local residents have felt the need to frame an open letter addressed to your party, the AAP & the public. The media-frenzy associated with these events has been accompanied by the usual kind of misinformation and hyperbole. However, in the ensuing noise, the real stories of the underlying racism that afflicts our society and the negative repercussions of the raid on the African residents of the neighborhood, have been lost. We hope this letter will clarify some facts and put across a few of our concerns.
On the morning of 17 January, the very day after Somnath Bharti carried out his vigilante act – and I maintain, despite Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav, that it was a vigilante act – I wrote a post relating to the dangers of xenophobia, racism and vigilantism that this act portended. I felt called upon to write that post because one of the valuable political lessons I have learnt over the years is that there can be no unconditional support for any political formation. Every support must be is contextual and conjunctural, never for all eternity. My criticism was therefore of someone who is invested in the process that AAP and Kejriwal have unleashed and I want it to succeed. In invoking xenophobia and racism, my point, however, was that the leadership of the party has a role to play in relation to political education and cannot simply flow with the local sentiment.
I have always maintained, right from the days of the anti-corruption movement led by the IAC, that the movement and its later avatar, the AAP, had opened out a space of new possibilities. The mass support that the movement and now AAP is drawing is primarily, in my view, a function of the fact that it can mean many things to many people. ‘Clarity’ on every issue concerning the world is not its agenda. This is why some of us have been arguing that the movement/ party is still taking shape. It does not yet have a ready-made, given ideological form. This is why it can be shaped. Its future is radically open. I see no reason to change that position yet. Yes, it is in the design of things that there are Kumar Vishwases and Somnath Bhartis in that formation, and it disturbs our sensibilities no end. But that is precisely the challenge – if we cannot deal with them, we cannot deal with ordinary folk either. Moreover, everybody can change and it is simply arrogant upper class presumptuousness to mock at the ‘uncouthness’ of someone or hold their past against them (in the case of Vishwas). In any case, for anyone seriously interested in changing the existing state of affairs, it should be quite clear that the entire business is about changing ‘common sense’, to put it in Gramscian language. We don’t live in an already transformed universe. Continue reading In Defense of the ‘Post-Ideological’ Aam Aadmi – Yet Again!→
Over the last few weeks, the blizzard of news about the Aam Aadmi Party – and the move of many independent intellectuals and some activists into the party – has seemed like a roller coaster ride. One week we were told the world had changed, the following week that it had collapsed, and now we have no idea what next week is going to bring. But the roller coaster should not blind us to the deeper dynamics at work. In particular, there’s one that is uncannily familiar – the role being played by the English media. Those rushing to endorse and celebrate AAP should pause to consider recent events before they do so.
A good place to start is the India Against Corruption protests, which were clearly a media mobilisation. It was the media – particularly the English and Hindi electronic media – that called people on to the streets, that announced the locations and demands of the protests, and that consistently described the movement as being “universal” and about “ordinary people” (for examples, see the paragraph in this article on Times Now’s role in April 2011; or The Hoot’s analysis of TV coverage). Social media, the Sangh Parivar and the IAC’s local committees did so too, but they all jumped in after the mainstream media did, and they continued to rely on it. No other mass mobilisation of recent times, except the anti-rape protests, has received this kind of treatment at the hands of the media. Continue reading The English Media and AAP – Should One Rush to Endorse the Party: Shankar Gopalakrishnan→
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.
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?
The Aam Admi Party it seems has now decided to hit back at critics by uploading videos on Youtube to defend the controversial actions of Somnath Bharti, its Law Minister in Delhi done purportedly ‘in public interest’. Bharti has been chastised even by AAP supporters for his vigilantism and for trying to force the Delhi police to raid the house of suspected sex and drug racketeers and who in fact ‘helped’, along with his followers to catch two of the fleeing women.
Eight videos have been uploaded. They, according to the party contain incriminating evidence to prove that sex and drug racketeers were very much active in that area. Reporting the videos The Times of India says “… some of the scenes are not so easy to judge. Two clips show an African national walking around naked in the area. In another, three women in a car are rubbing some substance in their hands. Yet another shows several condoms lying about a car.” .
We do indeed see an African national moving around naked in the video. This is supposed to prove the allegation by the party that drugs are being used as according to one AAP worker “Walking around naked like this is an after-effect of drugs and this is a regular occurrence in the area”. You can also see for yourself condoms lying in the car. Do you need any more evidence to prove that the occupants of the car were indeed prostitutes carrying condoms with them and luring men to indulge in sex? Why are these three women rubbing some substance in their hands or trying to hide something by putting on gloves? Continue reading For the sake of Form→
I am avowedly anti-police. I am only half-convinced when I say that they are a necessary evil. The “necessary” part is what I get doubtful about. This last Saturday was different. I found myself uncomfortably on the same side as the police as I read the newspapers about Somnath Bharti’s self-righteous and racist escapades. To tell the truth, I did not immediately believe what I read. That was not because I had some personal knowledge of Bharti’s antecedents. But because, AAP was a phenomenon that I wanted to work.
These last few weeks, ever since AAP’s dramatic rise to power, I have been wafting in and out of mental states, between dreams and wakefulness. Dreams are fragile things. For me, AAP’s upsurge was a dream coming true. I come from a generation of Tamils that takes joy no matter whether AIADMK or DMK wins as long as the ruling party loses horribly. Ditto with Congress and BJP.
Now, this AAP thing was an early morning dream. I could see it, feel the joy of seeing disbelief and confusion writ large in the faces of BJP and Congress wallahs. I loved it. I did not know whether I liked AAP or not. But I liked what they did, how they did it. In terms of what they proposed to do, I had questions, suggestions and critical comments. To me, the stated lack of ideology – to begin with – was both an opportunity and a challenge. Continue reading Of AAP, dreams and nightmares: Nityanand Jayaraman→
This article by AASTHA CHAUHAN was originally published on the Yahoo! News India web site. It is being republished here so that it reaches a different audience because there is an urgent necessity to widen the discussion on racism in India.
In the decade that I’ve been working in Khirki Extension in south Delhi, I’ve known it as a neighborhood in a constant state of flux.
When I first began working at KHOJ, an international artists’ association located in Khirki Extension in 2004, the neighborhood was home to architects’ studios, a theatre studio and various offices, followed by a wave of musicians and artists. It was a locality comprised mainly of houses, some built by well-known architects such as Ramu Katakam and Ashok B Lall. Even Jaya Jaitly had a house there. Soon enough, these large plots were sold to builders, who put in apartments that could accommodate more people. But given the terrible infrastructure in the area, with its poor roads and drainage and its tendency to get flooded, many of its earlier residents moved out. Continue reading Somnath Bharti and the Terrible, Everyday Racism of a South Delhi Mohalla: Aastha Chauhan→
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression condemns the racial profiling, sexual violence and vigilantism by AAP against Ugandan women.
Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is a network of women’s rights, Dalit rights, human rights and civil liberties organizations and individuals across India. It is a non-funded grassroots effort by women to stem the violence being perpetrated upon our bodies and on our societies by the State’s forces, by non-state actors and by the inability of our government to resolve conflict in a meaningful, sustainable and effective manner.
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression strongly condemns the illegal raid conducted by the AAP cabinet law minister, Somnath Bharti and his mob of supporters, on the premises of the Ugandan women on 17th January 2014 residing in Khidki village, New Delhi.
One media report states that four women who were kept in a taxi for 3 hours were accused of conducting ‘drug rackets’ and ‘sex rackets’; and were terrorized by your cabinet minister and his mob. The women, who were eventually helped by the police, have registered their statements. Two of them have stated that they were physically assaulted by the mob and were also subjected to intense racist abuse – “black people break laws.” Continue reading Letter to Arvind Kejriwal: Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression→
The savage greed of the civilized stripped naked its own unashamed inhumanity’
Africa, Rabindranath Tagore
Delhi Law Minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Somnath Bharti’s midnight raid in Khirki village, during which he ordered policemen to search and enter houses, arrest people without warrants, and allegedly said that “black people, who are not like you and me, break laws” – strips naked the unashamed inhumanity of the Aam Aadmi Party regime’s moral posturing. Underneath the holier-than-thou mask of that moral posture lies the unmistakably horrible sneer of the ordinary racist thug. This is the real face of Somnath Bharti. I hope it is a face that the Aam Aadmi Party can turn itself away from.
There are also reports that one of the women was forced to give a urine sample in public. The women were also subjected to cavity searches and tests – none of which yielded any sign of drugs. The violence against the women was defended in the name of anger against ‘prostitution’ and ‘drug peddling’, while no proof of the same has been presented as yet. In any case, the treatment meted out to the women cannot be justified even if they were indeed prostitutes! Continue reading Protest Against Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti’s Racist Vigilantism in Delhi: Kavita Krishnan→
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).” Continue reading Xenophobia, Racism and Vigilantism – Danger Signals for AAP→