It is with extreme dismay that we write to you regarding the horrific act of harassment and racial profiling of Ugandan and Nigerian women by a group led by Delhi Law Minister Shri Somnath Bharti, comprising amongst others members of Aam Admi Party. Such a targeting goes against the sense of security and human rights of all women in general, and of single and working women in particular. Television footage of the incident including Shri Somnath Bharti’s own detailed statements, CCTV footage from AIIMS and the complaints by the women themselves, clearly indicate that Shri Somnath Bharti endangered the women and instigated the crowd to violate their human rights, by branding them as prostitutes and asking the crowd to catch them.
We as women’s organizations who have worked amongst women for several decades in Delhi and around, have fought against the extremely insensitive anti-women behaviour of Delhi Police in cases related to crimes against women. Examples of police hostility against women abound—be it cases of “honour” crime where the police has handed over young couples to be killed by their families, or cases of rape and dowry where the survivors are victimized and harassed while the perpetrators roam scot-free. It is increasingly becoming a very unsafe city for women and girls.
We agree that it is essential to put in place measures to discipline and hold Delhi police accountable for their lapses and short comings— the latest instances including the Danish woman’s rape and the dowry murder of Neha Yadav. We once again reiterate our long standing demand that the central government take urgent necessary steps towards bringing Delhi police under the Delhi government.
We also know how hard it is to ensure that Police act in accordance with law and Constitutional values rather than public or political sentiment, especially in matters involving women and vulnerable social groups. In this incident, the Malviya Nagar SHO became a rare exception who acted to protect the African women, whose safety was criminally compromised.’
It is therefore a great disservice to women’s rights to penalise Police officers who refuse to act in accordance with inflamed prejudices of the public or political leaders. And it is even more dangerous to allow private individuals or even ministers to take the law into their own hands and subject already vulnerable sections like women to further harassment. This was also a clear case of racial profiling against foreign citizens. We are therefore shocked to see you and other leaders of your party defend the actions of Shri Somnath Bharti.
We urge you to immediately condemn the role of and take appropriate action against Shri Somnath Bharti and registration of cases against those responsible under relevant sections of the IPC and CrPC. We also demand that you drop the insistence on suspending the Malviya Nagar SHO.
We would also like you to meet our delegation at your convenience as we have some concrete suggestions on Police reforms.
Jagmati Sangwan, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA)
Annie Raja, National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)
Kavita Krishnan, All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA)
Shabnam Hashmi, Act Now For Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD)
Indu Agnihotri, Centre for Women’s Development Student (CWDS)
Kavita Shrivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
Sunita Dhar, Jagori
Jyotsana Chatterjee, Joint Women’s Programme (JWP)
Leila Passah, Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)