Africans in the midst of political storm in Delhi

Africans in the midst of political storm in Delhi

Africans in the midst of political storm in Delhi

A group of young 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.

The women, who were mostly Ugandans and Nigerians, said they were assaulted by "people not in uniform" while a member of the ruling Aam Admi Party charged the minister with making "racist remarks" against Africans.

Speaking to IANS Friday, one of the women, who called herself Sandra, a student, narrated the Thursday night 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.

Her friend Selvia, 23, who has come for medical treatment, said: "They hurled abuses and insulted us."

Both of them said the police came and told them to come out of their rooms. "We were taken to the hospital and were later allowed to go home," Sandra said.

"We thought the crowd will kill us. We were very scared," she added.

She was talking about the past midnight raid by Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti and AAP cadres who reached Khirki Extension in south Delhi to bust a "prostitution and drug racket" of which he had received complaints from his constituents.

According to eyewitnesses, the minister and the party volunteers came in large number and tried to barge into a house from which they claimed a "drug and sex ring" was operating.

Other Africans, most of whom come here either for higher studies or for medical treatment, said that men wearing "black jackets" knocked on their door.

"Around 12.30 a.m., I was inside my house with my roommates, when some people wearing black jackets started knocking on our main door. They wanted us to show them our passports," 29-year-old Irene, who lives in the same lane, told IANS.

"However, after five to 10 minutes the police came and took them away," she said, adding that she felt the mob would "kill" them.

When the police reached the spot, the minister had a heated argument with them and asked them to arrest those who were operating the "racket". But Delhi Police, defying the minister, refused on the grounds that, under law, women cannot be arrested after sunset and that they did not have a warrant.

The minister's vigilante action came in for much criticism with a new entrant to the party, activist Mallika Sarabhai, saying the minister's remarks againt Africans "smacked of racism". The minister had said he had decided to take action because of "complaints of women of the neighbourhood" about the activites of some "foreign nationals", which included "Nigerians or Ugandans".

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal denied his ministers were interfering in police work, saying it was the duty of the ministers to speak and act if they witnessed any crime.

He also demanded that the Delhi Police suspend the police officers involved.

But the police refused to do so, saying the were only following the law. Both the Delhi Police, which functions under the union home ministry, and some ministers of the Delhi government reached the doors of Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung, who Friday ordered an inquiry into the episode.

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