AAP: Unconscionable Vigilantism
An Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) minister, Somnath Bharti, attempted to intimidate Delhi Police into raiding a residence where some Ugandan nationals lived by alleging that they ran a drug trafficking and prostitution ring. However, the police deemed the demand illegal and refused to conduct a raid on a residence without a court-issued search warrant. Law prohibits questioning a woman after 6:00 p.m. unless there is evidence of a heinous crime.
However, neither the AAP minister nor its vigilantes were dissuaded. Accompanied by hooligans affiliated with the party, they ambushed a taxi in which four Ugandan women arrived past midnight. They called the women prostitutes and drug addicts and held them captive inside the taxi for more than three hours. The terrified and defenseless women were assaulted, bruised, groped, and sexually molested by the party men, who also uttered racist slurs, stereotyped blacks as criminals, and warned them to leave India. AAP vigilantes humiliated one of the women by forcing her to urinate in full public glare.
The four Ugandan women were forcibly taken to a hospital, cavity searched, and tested for psychotropic substances. It appears that the police, who had initially refused to conduct an illegal raid, eventually caved in to the political bullying and authorized the medical examinations to be conducted. Alternatively, it is possible that the police was convinced of the innocence of the women and authorized a medical examination to falsify the vigilantes’ accusations and build a case against the vigilantes. However, had the police arrested Bharti and the AAP hooligans for acting illegally in the first place, the tragedy would’ve been averted.
The prestigious Mayo Clinic proceedings report that urine sample-based psychotropic tests detect ingestion of a wide range of drugs such as amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis, cocaine, and opiates over the past several days. The four women, who had been traumatized and abused by the AAP vigilantes for several hours, tested negative for psychotropic substances. In other words, the charges leveled against them were false and the women aren’t drug addicts as alleged. The vigilantes had assaulted, abused, and sexually molested the women without basis.
Arvind Kejriwal didn’t apologize to the traumatized women for the illegal and despicable conduct of his minister and party men. He didn’t initiate any legal action against the vigilantes. Instead, he shielded and defended them. He accused the Delhi Police of collusion with the criminals, demanded the suspension of the police officers who refused to conduct the illegal raid, and has threatened to launch an agitation. However, the Delhi Police chief refuted Kejriwal’s charges and insisted that his officers had followed the law. He also endorsed an impartial inquiry.
One needn’t doubt that India’s politicians and police often side with, shield, and refuse to act against the criminals and corrupt. Kejriwal’s conduct itself testifies to this. During the election campaign, he accused the former chief minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, of indulging in rampant corruption and promised to prosecute her. However, after he came to power, he made a U-turn and denied that there is any evidence that she was corrupt even though the 772-page CAG Audit Report on XIXth Commonwealth Games 2010 (Report No. 6 of 2011-12) indicts Dikshit on several charges of corruption. Therefore, Kejriwal is effectively shielding the corrupt Dikshit. One need not doubt that many police officers emulate Kejriwal’s example to shield the criminals.
However, in this case, there is no prima facie evidence that the four Ugandan women had committed any crime. Medical tests have falsified the charge leveled by the AAP vigilantes against these women. This incident should alarm a reasonable person for several reasons:
Kejriwal has made a show of creating hotlines where the public could report grievances. He encourages the public to record video or audio that would bolster their case and promises to act on their complaint. Why didn’t the AAP activists follow their own prescription and report the alleged drug trafficking and prostitution ring on the grievance hotline? They could’ve easily taken a video clipping with their mobile phones to support their complaint. Or, should one infer that only vigilantism and hooliganism would follow whenever the public call the grievance hotline?
AAP insists on going to the public to mobilize opinion. Kejriwal did that when he constituted government with Congress support. Assuming that the Ugandans were indeed running a drug trafficking and prostitution ring, and that the police were in cahoots with them, AAP could’ve taken the case to the public. A video clipping to support this allegation would’ve swayed public opinion and made it impossible for the police to avoid taking action. Why was this not done? Or, is it possible that the AAP minister and hooligans launched this attack to evict the Ugandans on some pretext to help the real estate mafia?
If reasonable people tolerate vigilantism, it would come back to haunt them. Let us not forget that many young women, who work in call centers and software companies, return home late. Many young women may also travel with their male colleagues or boyfriends. They may wear a pair of tight jeans or saree low on their waist. They may enjoy an occasional drink or dance with a beloved one at a wedding party. Do you want self-appointed moral police and vigilantes to call them prostitutes? Do you cherish the prospect of your sister, daughter, or wife being molested and forced to urinate in full public glare merely because some vigilante alleges that she is a prostitute? Do you want her to be illegally detained by hooligans and forced to undergo cavity searches and drug tests? If you do not wish your kith or kin to undergo these travails, you cannot be a silent spectator to the travails of the four Ugandan women.
Kejriwal has been effectively shielding Sheila Dikshit by refusing to prosecute her for corruption despite a CAG indictment. Should the public take to vigilantism and assault Dikshit and Kejriwal for indulging in corruption and shielding the corrupt respectively? One cannot reform society by indulging in hooliganism and subverting law. Only by streamlining the system can one reform society.
The dehumanizing of the Ugandan women in this episode on the suspicion that they were prostitutes should shock an empathetic person. A prostitute is a victim of organized crime, exploitation, and human trafficking. She lives under abject conditions and is exposed to AIDS and other lethal diseases. She is unceremoniously discarded when she is no longer young. If she has children, they face social opprobrium. She deserves our sympathy and empathy so that she could be rehabilitated. We cannot tolerate vigilantes stigmatizing, assaulting, molesting, and publicly humiliating her.
One of the abused Ugandan women aptly asked, “There are many Indian people living in Africa but we never ill-treat them the way they (the AAP hooligans) have treated us. Some of the men told us that we are blacks and so we indulge in illegal activities. (…) How can they say all this?” I had made a case for reclaiming the sacred feminine in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya rape tragedy. I would add that the feminine is sacred regardless of the woman’s skin color.
A reasonable person should set aside ideological affiliations and demand justice for the wronged Ugandan women. Molesting a woman is a serious crime. A court judgment urges making it a non-bailable offense. The police should take Bharti into custody for interrogation to determine the identity of the hooligans who molested the women. I do not believe that the local residents were the culprits. Had the Ugandans been criminals who ran a drug trafficking and prostitution ring as alleged, local residents wouldn’t have dared to attack them fearing retaliation. Had the allegations been false, the docile middle class of the neighborhood wouldn’t have found a reason to attack the harmless Ugandans. Therefore, prima facie, it appears that Bharti brought in an organized gang of hooligans in a well-planned assault. Unless Bharti is interrogated, one cannot determine the motive and identify and punish the hooligans.
Kejriwal’s conduct in shielding and defending the molesters is barbaric. His penchant for extra-constitutional methods and craving for publicity have been the catalysts to this barbaric attack. He owes an unconditional apology to the abused women. However, instead of apologizing, a combative Kejriwal persists in defending the culprits. In an interview, instead of admitting that medical tests have vindicated the women and that they were unjustly abused and humiliated, he dishonestly argued that had the women undergone blood tests they would’ve been found guilty.
Why should innocent women be forcibly subject to tests at the insistence of vigilantes? How would Kejriwal feel if a group of vigilantes allege that the Kejriwal residence is a den of drug trafficking and prostitution, illegally force his wife to undergo urine sample-based drug tests, and even after the test results vindicate her, continue to insist that blood tests would’ve found her guilty? What is sauce for the Kejriwal goose is sauce for the Ugandan gander too. A civil society cannot be indifferent when its unscrupulous political leaders unfairly blame the victim. The public has a moral duty to launch a peaceful agitation until justice is served the Ugandan women and the hooligans who assaulted and molested them are punished according to law.
We rallied for Nirbhaya and refused to relent. We will rally for the Ugandan women too.