Letter to Arvind Kejriwal by Nivedita Menon Kafila

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.

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression condemns the racial profiling, sexual violence and vigilantism by AAP against Ugandan women.

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.”

Media reports also indicate that for the purpose of collecting their urine samples, one of them was forced to urinate in public. To add to this abuse and trauma, they were also subjected to not only body search but humiliating invasive physical searches of their private parts. This search is a part of the routine custodial violence that women are often subjected to.

As a group in solidarity with women who face violence, we are appalled to learn of this incident which reeks of gross violation of not only the constitutional law but of human rights as well.

In its party manifesto, AAP had professed to follow the rules of the law, vowed to create a safer society for women, and punish the sexual offenders. But, in the light of this incident, we are deeply disappointed to note that your party has demeaned the credibility of its own manifesto by going against it and engaging in such disturbing acts.

Your law minister has not only wilfully and fearlessly broken the law but it is shocking to see that instead of taking a decisive stern action against Somnath Bharti, you and your cabinet colleague, Manish Sisodia, defend his racial profiling and violent vigilantism under the pretext of preventing ‘rape tendencies’. We find it inexplicable that when in another shameful incident, a Danish woman was gang raped, the AAP leadership immediately and rightfully recognized it as violence against women but it failed to take cognizance of the same offence when it was inflicted through the agency of its own cabinet minister.

To add insult to injury, in less than 24 hours, in a further appalling act Somnath Bharti returned to the very spot on Thursday and asked the residents to draw up a list of houses where ‘such people’ lived and assured them that he would personally check on each one of them. This act is leading to a power structure similar to the regressive Khap Panchayat, where residents are being given the dangerously partial authority of deciding on the basis of their personal and cultural prejudices on who might be a suspect or not. In a country where we have witnessed serious assaults on civil rights on the basis of religion, gender, caste and class, such authority is a potential threat to the civil liberties. If we do not collectively condemn it and proactively combat it, sooner or later we would all be prey to the same.

Legal protection from police barging into people’s homes and arresting them without search/ arrest warrants is a safeguard that has been fought for and established in democratic societies by the constitution. Violating the law was a very shameful act on the part of the Minister who ironically has been given the same responsibility of protecting and upholding the very law he willfully disobeyed. And to defend his acts, makes your stand not just shameful, but it is hazardous to the social well being of any citizen of this state. No one should be allowed such violation under any circumstances. Further, to put the foreigners who have chosen this country to work in or study in is shows India in very poor light. By doing this, you forsaken many Indians based abroad for education or work.

We stand in solidarity with the women who were subjected to the violence that night and strongly feel that such racist, sexist and moral zealots and vigilantes have no constructive role to play in a party that claims to be a common people’s party, aims to prevent violence against women and seeks to promote diversity and tolerance.

We would like to iterate that:

* There are guidelines by the Supreme Court restated time and again which insist that women cannot be questioned by the police at night, that notice of any search etc has to be given in advance so that women can be prepared for the same.

* That the law clearly lays down the process to be followed by the police which includes the absolute necessity of a search warrant and at least a complaint, if not an FIR to back the same.

* That an assumption cannot be made simply because a couple of women of colour are living together, that they indulge in solicitation for the purpose of prostitution or otherwise.

In the light of the above, WSS demands that:

1. By violating the same law that he pledged to uphold, Somnath Bharti, has proved unfit to be a law Minister, and should be removed from his position.

2. A judicial probe should be ordered by the lieutenant Governor to identify those who instigated and perpetrated the violence against these Ugandan women and also other African nationals in Khidki village.

3. All found guilty of such violence be punished as per the law, including the law minister.

4. The Ugandan women are compensated

5. The police who came to the help and protect those women from the mob violence, followed the rules of the law and refused to raid without a search warrant must not be suspended. Instead they should be made answerable for not filing the FIR of the affected women.

6.  AAP must render an apology to the women and others Africans in the country. They should stop spreading racist propaganda such as ‘all Africans are drug peddlers’’ who engage in ‘sex rackets’, and should actively discourage others engaging in the same.

7. AAP should promote tolerance and encourage diversity in Delhi and other parts of the country.

Kalpana Mehta, Rinchin and Geeta Charusivam, National Conveners, WSS

(On behalf of Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression)

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. Via Kafila

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