New Delhi: Delhi's Aam Aadmi Party government is under increasing pressure to remove Law Minister Somnath Bharti over his controversial raid, though Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has stood by him. Over 40 academicians and rights activists have asked the Chief Minister to sack Mr Bharti, alleging "racist and sexual violence" on the African women who were targeted in the raid on suspicion of a drug and sex racket.
10 developments in the story:
- Mr Bharti has been summoned by the Delhi Commission for Women on Friday. He reportedly did not respond to an earlier summons to appear on Tuesday.
- The NCP, an ally of the Congress, which provides external support to the AAP, questioned why the Delhi Police did not act against Somnath Bharti. "I agree with Kejriwal that Delhi Police made a mistake. The mistake is that they didn't arrest the Law Minister then and there, a law minister who is breaking laws," said NCP spokesperson DP Tripathi.
- An "Open Letter by Citizens" asks Mr Kejriwal to remove Mr Bharti for allegedly racist comments during that raid, and provides video clips as proof. "Is it not racist to allege that an entire community of Africans are prostitutes and drug traffickers?" activists and academicians question in the letter.
- In one of his comments on camera, the minister says "Nigerian girls and men all indulge in prostitution and drug trafficking and it is a threat to local ma, behen, beti (mothers, sisters and daughters)."
- One of the Ugandan women targeted in the raid has recorded her statement before a magistrate and identified the 39-year-old minister as the man who led her attackers. She has alleged that a mob entered her home, beat her and molested her. ('Somnath Bharti led the people who attacked me,' says Ugandan woman) The police say they have not added Mr Bharti's name to the FIR filed in the case, but he could be named in the chargesheet if the probe finds evidence against him.
- "What basis did Mr Bharti have to assume these women were criminals - except their race/colour and the fact that they were out on a street at night?" the activists ask the Chief Minister, alleging that Mr Bharti ordered the police to raid every home in a building said to be occupied by African nationals. (Should AAP remove him? Vote here)
- The letter highlights racial targeting of African immigrants in the area, but says the minister chose to ignore the activists who spoke to him about it and went with the allegations of local people.
- Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday ended his 33-hour protest to demand action against five policemen who had refused to make arrests on Mr Bharti's orders. (Pics) The AAP accepted Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung's promise to fast-track action against the policemen. Two of the cops have been sent on leave since then.
- Mr Bharti has been criticised for his allegedly intemperate language targeting critics, by AAP leaders like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, who admitted that they were not comfortable with his language and his conduct was open to debate.
- Another AAP member Captain GR Gopinath has said if the policemen who have been accused by the AAP minister of refusing to help with his raid and ignoring evidence are suspended, so should Mr Bharti. (Suspend Law Minister Somnath Bharti too if cops are suspended: AAP's Captain Gopinath)