Sunday, Nov 23, 2014

Two Delhi ministers, Somnath Bharti and Rakhi Birla, turn vigilantes

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. (PTI) Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. (PTI)
Express News Service | New Delhi | Posted: January 16, 2014 10:21 pm | Updated: January 17, 2014 8:06 am

Less than 24 hours after he led a midnight raid and tried to bully police into arresting some “Nigerians or Ugandans” who he alleged were members of “a prostitution-and-drug ring”, Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti returned to the very spot on Thursday and asked residents to draw up a list of houses where “such people” live and said he would personally check each one.

The police, he said, would also be told to do the same. Elsewhere in the capital, his colleague and Women and Child Welfare Minister Rakhi Birla tried to force the police to arrest suspects involved in setting a woman ablaze last week.

Birla claimed the police refused to break down the locked door of a suspect’s house.

On Wednesday, hours after AAP leader and Delhi minister Manish Sisodia warned of the possibility of “political goondaism”, Bharti, accompanied by television crews and AAP volunteers, landed in Khirki Extension — a part of his Malviya Nagar constituency in south Delhi — saying he had received “information” on a prostitution-and-drug ring. He demanded police conduct medical tests on foreign nationals and even search a house, without a warrant, which some locals believed was a den of vice. He rebuked a police officer for refusing to act without following due process.

Early on Thursday morning, the Malviya Nagar police took four “African nationals” to AIIMS for a medical examination. Hours later, Bharti returned to Khirki Extension, met residents and told them to draw up a list of suspected vice dens. “I am here to solve your problems. I request you to make a list of houses jahan aise log rehte hain (where such people live). This has been happening under the nose of the police for too long and I wanted to see what happens. We have not violated any laws,” Bharti said. 

Asked what he would do with the list, he said, “I will be visiting each of these houses and I will urge the police to do the same. I have taken a vow to put an end to such things in this area.” At the same time, Bharti also urged residents not to take the law into their hands. “I am here to solve your problems. We have to be united,” he said.

On Thursday, Bharti railed against the police who resisted his demands and claimed they refused to act. “I received a message of a prostitution-and-drug ring in Khirki Extension and went there with some volunteers. We came across a PCR van and took them along after asking them to switch off their beacon and siren to nab the culprits red-handed,” he said.

“There were lots of vehicles and foreign nationals either from Nigeria or Uganda. The local SHO was there. When we got down and starting walking towards them, the police fell behind. We ran forward and tried to nab four people. We apprehended two and handed them to the police, the other two fled,” Bharti said. By then, a crowd had gathered and, according to Bharti, bystanders pointed to a house believed to be a den of vice. “We sent a decoy to the house and he said the charge was Rs 10,000 a night. So I immediately asked the police to conduct a search and arrest those involved but the police refused,” he said.

According to Bharti, the police cited rules that prohibited such search and arrests. “They said we cannot do such things. But that is wrong. You can do it if you can give a written explanation for it. But nobody wants to do such things. If the police do not even listen to the law minister, what will the common man do?” he asked. The debutant minister, whose biography on his website says he has travelled the globe, refused to explain how he knew those running the alleged rackets were from Nigeria and Uganda.

“The local SHO who was present also said a lot of Nigerians reside in this area. I have received a lot of complaints from women in this locality against foreign nationals, yeh hum aur aap jaise nahin hain (They are not like you or me),” Bharti said.
He said his team stopped a car with four “Nigerians or Ugandans”.

“We asked the police to search the car and found traces of drugs and the dashboard was filled with condoms. We then took them to AIIMS for a blood sample, which they refused. They even refused to show us their passports,” he said. Bharti also claimed to have narrowly escaped a possible attack. “While we were returning, two cars with foreign nationals blocked the road, I quickly turned around and managed to escape by the skin of my teeth,” he said. Meanwhile, Minister Rakhi Birla claimed the Sagarpur police had shielded suspects in a dowry harassment case in which a woman had been allegedly set ablaze.

“I went to the house where the incident occurred in Indira Park and asked police officers what they were doing about the case. But they did not even care. The house was locked and I asked police to break in and search the house,” she said.  According to Birla, police confirmed that forensic samples had been collected. “If samples were collected, then where are the marks. I spoke to a senior police officer about the issue,” Birla said.

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