Somnath Bharti won’t quit; summoned by women’s commission today
New Delhi – Somnath Bharti, Delhi’s Law Minister, has been summoned by the state’s women’s commission at 3 pm today. Mr Bharti’s party has ruled out his resignation, saying there is no evidence to suggest that he made racist comments or misbehaved with African women during a controversial midnight raid that he led at a south Delhi locality last week.
Sources in the Delhi Women’s Commission have said if the minister does not appear before the panel today, they will take up the matter with Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung. Congress and BJP leaders have called for his removal and arrest.
Mr Bharti was summoned to a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee of the Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party, its highest decision-making body, on Thursday evening amid mounting calls for his removal from the Delhi cabinet.
At the meeting the AAP’s top leaders, including Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, backed Mr Bharti,also saying that he should be “lauded for his efforts to address people’s grievances.”
“First, he did not do anything which was unbecoming of a minister. The preliminary probe by the party has not found him misbehaving or assaulting Ugandan women. He was also not found using any racial slur,” AAP’s chief spokesperson Yogendra Yadav said after the meeting. He also said that action would be taken against the minister if he was found guilty in a judicial inquiry ordered by Mr Jung.
The party, though, warned Mr Bharti against the use of “foul language”, referring to his recent remarks against senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley and noted lawyer Harish Salve. “We have warned him to control himself in the future,” Mr Yadav said.
Harish Salve is representing Ugandan women who have filed a police case alleging that they were molested and beaten up by a mob earlier this month which hurled racist slurs at them, called them prostitutes and forced some of them to submit urine samples for drug tests. They tested negative for drugs in a Delhi hospital.
The mob was mobilised allegedly by the Law Minister. On camera, he is seen arguing with police officers who said they could not raid a house in his constituency or arrest the women because they did not have warrants.
Accused of vigilantism, of gross racism and sexism, and of “stoking prejudices”, Somnath Bharti has denied all allegations. He says residents in the area had repeatedly urged the police to take action against African nationals trafficking drugs and sex, but that their pleas had been ignored by apathetic officers.
A police case has been filed by a Ugandan woman against the controversial “midnight raid” by Mr Bharti, though he is not named in the First Information Report or FIR. Seven women have now deposed in court in connection with the case. Today, one of them asked for a second case to be registered against Mr Bharti. A court has asked the police to explain why it hasn’t done so.
Mr Kejriwal had held a two-day demonstration in the heart of the city to protest against the cops who did not make the arrests ordered by the Law Minister. One of those cops has been asked to proceed on leave as part of a compromise offered by the Centre to Mr Kejriwal to call off his protest. A judge is investigating the incident to determine the facts.