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New Delhi: A group of Africans found themselves in the middle of a political and media furore in Delhi with a greenhorn minister in the new state government accusing them of being part of a “prostitution and drug racket” and demanding their arrest. Four Ugandan women later filed a police case over a midnight raid.
The women, mostly Ugandans and Nigerians, said they were assaulted by “people not in uniform” while a member of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party charged the minister with making “racist remarks”.
The vigilantism of Somnath Bharti and the AAP cadre in rounding up the African nationals for medical tests has attracted widespread condemnation from both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, who termed it “reprehensible”.
The four Ugandan nationals registered a police case against “unknown people” for misbehaving with them during the early Thursday raid by Delhi Law Minister Bharti and his party cadre, said police.
In the complaint, one of the women said that “some unidentified people knocked at their door” past midnight and “when she asked them, they asked her to come out.
“When I refused, they continued banging on the door. I then opened the door and was caught and attacked.”
She went on to say the police came at the right time and she was taken to a hospital for medical test and later discharged.
Speaking to IANS on Friday, one of the women, who called herself Sandra, a student, narrated the incident: “We were in our house when suddenly we heard people shouting outside.
“When we peeped out, we saw a huge crowd. We got scared and locked ourselves inside,” Sandra, 24, who said she was pursuing a course from the Indira Gandhi National Open University, added.
Other Africans, most of whom come here either for higher studies or for medical treatment, said men wearing “black jackets” knocked on their door.
When the police reached the spot, the minister had a heated argument asking them to arrest those operating the “racket”. But Delhi Police, in defiance of the minister, refused on the ground that under the law women could not be arrested after sunset and that they did not have a warrant.
Bharti’s vigilante action came in for much criticism with a new entrant to the party, activist Mallika Sarabhai, saying the minister’s remarks against Africans “smacked of racism”.
Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari tweeted saying the action of the AAP cadres in forcing some African women to undergo medical tests is a “blot” and “reprehensible and obtuse”.
BJP’s Arun Jaitley also tweeted that “Delhi Police ACP has stood by law and not meekly followed diktats of his minister – the only redeeming feature in this unseemly episode.
“The action by the AAP cadres to carry out medical tests which included cavity search on some women foreign nationals is contrary to law,” wrote the BJP leader.
However, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal denied his ministers were interfering in police work and demanded the Delhi Police suspend the police officers involved, which the police refused to do. (IANS)