‘Minister said catch, arrest any African’

New Delhi, Jan 17: “Arrest the women, catch them,” barked Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti to police when he saw two African women walking down the narrow lanes of Khirki Extension in south Delhi in the early hours Thursday, one of the policeman accompanying him said.

The head constable, who was deployed at Eagle-16 patrolling vehicle of the Police Control Room (PCR), said in his written statement in Hindi to his superiors that “minister saab (sir) “was accompanied by a few people when he asked him to come along with him to raid a house at around 1 a.m. Thursday

“I was deputed in Eagle 16-PCR vehicle near Select City Walk Mall. Suddenly, minister saab came and asked me to come along with him. I first called South District Control Room and informed the senior, who asked me to go with him,” said the policeman. This IANS correspondent got access to the police document.

As he reached near Sai Mandir street in Khirki Extension, two African women, whose nationalities were not known and who were walking down the street were sighted. The minister started shouting and asked his supporters to “catch them”.

The AAP cadres, who accompanied the minister, ran and caught the stunned women, and brought them inside the police vehicle.

The minister told the police that these women were “drug traffickers” and should be arrested, the policeman said.

The head constable, in his statement, said that Bharti and his supporters kept shouting and asked the police to search the homes of Africans living there and frisk them, without any evidence of their allegations.

The area is full of narrow lanes with homes cheek by jowl filled with working class people and a lot of African students and others who have come here for small business. The area has often seen friction between locals and the Africans, who are largely, people say, from Nigeria and Uganda.

“His supporters kept stopping the vehicles passing the area. They stopped a car in which few African women had come. He asked them to search their vehicle claiming they had drugs inside it.” said the policeman’s statement about the vigilantism of the Delhi minister, whose Aam Aadmi Party took everyone by surprise by coming to power last month in Delhi state.

The policeman also said that Bharti’s supporters also caught three eunuchs standing at the street. “The minister’s supporters caught three eunuchs claiming that they were sex workers,” he further said in his statement.

Another policeman, who also reached the spot, told IANS that the chaos went for at least two hours.

“He kept demanding to search the houses where the people from Africa were living. We requested the minister that we can’t search without a warrant. But he kept abusing the foreigners,” said the officer.

The police finally refused to heed the minister’s orders, leading to a verbal altercation between an officer and the minister. Two African women told journalists that they would have got “beaten up” by the minister’s people had not police come to their rescue.

Some of the AAP ministers are already in trouble with their unconventional ways with some of their new members, who are ex-corporates and professionals, suggesting that the ministers need a crash course in governance and understand that ministers cannot behave like activists and indulge in vigilantism and arrest people merely on suspicion.

(Alok Singh can be contacted at alok.s@ians.in)

IANS