|File photo of Somnath Bharti (Pic: PTI)|
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Women’s rights group want Delhi law minister sacked for harassment of Ugandan women
NEW DELHI (AA) - Indian women's rights groups want New Delhi's Law Minister to be sacked after he allegely ordered for a Ugandan woman to be harrassed and beaten by a mob last week.
Pressure is mounting for the ouster of Somnath Bhari after the Ugandan national, who was accused of being involved in a prostitution racket, identified him in a video clip played on television.
"We were harassed, we were beaten, they were having long sticks. They said we should leave their country or else they would kill us one by one,” said the alleged victim.
“He came in the night and the next day I saw him on television. The Delhi Police came in time and saved us from the mob,” she said.
The alleged victim recorded a statement before a magistrate on Tuesday, claiming that the mob led by the minister assaulted and made racist comments against people of African origin.
The statement has been given to the Delhi police in a sealed envelope, to be opened only during the trial of the case.
A mob reportedly led by Bharti barged into the woman’s house during the night on January 15, accusing the Ugandan nationals of running a prostitution and drug racket in New Delhi.
Representatives of women’s rights groups have condemned the midnight raid as an act of “vigilantism” by the minister.
In an open letter on Wednesday, 50 women’s rights activists urged Delhi's chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, to punish Bharti and others for “instigating and perpetrating racist and sexual violence on African women”.
Kejriwal defended the action of his colleague Bharti, alleging police hesitance was the result of connections between the “sex racket” and "corrupt” Delhi police.
“These Ugandan women have alleged that they were beaten and groped sexually. On what basis do you deem these allegations to be false?” the activists asked.
“Is it the government's contention that only ‘ma, behen, beti’ (mother, sister, daughter) are entitled to safety and dignity - and that prostitutes can be left to the mercy of moralistic mobs?,” the letter read.
The letter called on the local government to apologise to the women after the urine tests they were forced to take proved negative.
Two New Delhi police officers who broke up the mob were suspended but a prominent women's right activist told Anadolu Agency (AA), on the condition of anonymity, they were actually protecting the Ugandan nationals.
“Isn’t it strange that they have been penalized for failing to obey the orders of the minister”, she said.
“This sends out a dangerous signal that law-enforcement officers will be penalized if they uphold the democratic rights of vulnerable individuals,” she said.
The activists said in the letter that “Delhi Police must be accountable to the Constitution and not to bidding of ministers and mobs.”
The police operate under India's federal ministry but the Delhi government want to bring them under state control.
Captain GR Gopinath, founder of Air Deccan and a high-profile member of the ruling the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) called for the sacking of Bharti pending an inquiry against him.
Federal Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde called AAP leader and Delhi chief minister “mad” on Wednesday.
“Because of that veda (mad) chief minister’s demonstration, I had to deploy thousands of policemen,” Shinde said, talking about the 33-hour long protest led by Kejriwal against the New Delhi police, which ended on Tuesday.
New Delhi police had previously refused to arrest the accused women despite orders from the New Delhi government. A stand-off between the two authorities ended on Tuesday night when the federal government said it would take deal against police inaction.
Anadolu Agency, January 22, 2014