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AAP faces vigilante backlash

New Delhi, Jan. 17: Two Nigerian women and another from Uganda today lodged police complaints alleging molestation, criminal intimidation and trespass by a mob led by Delhi minister Somnath Bharti on the suspicion that the trio were involved in a sex and drugs racket.

They have also written to the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women accusing the mob led by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader of hurling racist slurs.

The Nigerian women have said they were dragged out of their apartments, forced into a police van and driven away to hospital for medical tests in the incidents that unfolded on Wednesday in Bharti’s Malviya Nagar constituency. These followed the cops’ refusal to heed the law minister’s demand to raid the foreigners’ homes.

The Nigerian women claimed that during the tests at AIIMS, their private parts were examined. They were let off only after they tested negative for drugs.

Earlier that night, the duo claimed the minister and his supporters had also surrounded the cabs of some other African women who had returned after parties and did not let them step out for hours.

“A mob entered our apartment late at night and started banging on the door. They threatened to kill us if we did not open it,” one of the Nigerians alleged in her complaint that does not name Bharti but mentions “a minister”.

According to the complaint, the minister insisted that the Nigerian women be taken to a nearby temple for a search but the police refused, after which they were put in the police van and sent to AIIMS for the tests.

“They abused us and shouted at us. The police were supportive but the mob turned violent and they also slapped one of us,” one of the women alleged.

A senior officer said Bharti and his volunteers had also wanted action against another group of Ugandan women but the cops refused. “What we did (in taking the women for tests) was also illegal as the police cannot force a person to undergo medical examination. But we had to do it to avoid law and order problems,” an officer said.

Diplomatic ripples

Bharti’s alleged vigilante action sparked a diplomatic outcry today. The Nigerian government condemned the “illegal harassment”. The country’s high commissioner, Ndubuisi Vitus Amaku, lodged a protest with the external affairs ministry here against the detention of two of the women by the mob, mission officials said.

The officials added this was Amaku’s second protest in just over two months. In November, several Nigerian nationals in Goa were arrested for demonstrating against alleged police inaction after a fellow national was murdered. The police had alleged the murdered man was a part of a drug-peddling gang.

Amaku had then protested what he alleged were race-based prejudices driving harassment of Nigerians in the coastal state. “Today, he articulated similar concerns to India’s ministry of external affairs,” a Nigerian high commission official said.

But Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal denied today that Bharti’s comments were racist. “His comments have to be viewed in right perspective. He is not against people of African origin, neither is it (his comment) racist.”

AAP-police tussle

Bharti’s cabinet colleague Manish Sisodia has threatened to teach Delhi police “a lesson” and asserted “this is not a Sheila Dikshit government”.

The comments came after Sisodia, Kejriwal and other AAP leaders complained to Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung against the police over altercations that Bharti and another minister, Rakhi Birla, had with cops in separate incidents.

The AAP leaders met Union home minister Sushil Shinde after Jung ordered a probe by a retired judge into the Bharti controversy but rejected the Kejriwal government’s request for immediate suspension of the cops, including an assistant commissioner, involved in the two altercations. Delhi police are under the Centre, not the state government.

“This is not a Sheila Dikshit government that got away by saying the police is not under us. Whether the police comes under us or not, we will teach them a lesson,” Sisodia, the education minister, said at a news conference after meeting Jung. The AAP delegation included Bharti and Birla.

In the meeting with Shinde, the AAP leaders also demanded that the state be given control of a part of the police outside the VIP enclave of Lutyens Delhi.

Later, Delhi police chief B.S. Bassi also met Shinde and Jung over the incidents. The police submitted a report to Jung on the row with Bharti.

“He (Bharti) is a law minister but does not know the law. We will not spare anyone found interfering with the law and order and day-to-day work,” a Delhi police source said.