Leaders of the ruling AAP, known to be vocal on social media platforms, have largely refrained from sharing their views on the recent attacks on Africans in Delhi.
Neither Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal nor other top AAP leaders have commented on the issue on Twitter or in public space. When approached, senior AAP leaders maintained they “condemned” the attacks on Africans, but described it as a law and order problem for which the Delhi Police and the Centre should take responsibility. Incidentally, AAP leaders also praised the efforts of Delhi Police.
Asked if AAP was consciously keeping its distance from the issue, the party’s Delhi unit convenor Dilip Pandey said, “Just because Arvind Kejriwal or any top leader has not tweeted about the issue does not mean we are avoiding it. We do condemn the attacks and consider it a law and order problem. Those responsible for maintaining peace in the capital should take charge… Police effort has been commendable so far, but they should take strictest action possible, which will deter locals from doing this again.”
He added, “While External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj immediately spoke to the Lieutenant Governor, Ministry of Home Affairs and Delhi Police Commissioner, and it was a good gesture… their other minister V K Singh… said something outrageous… that it was a minor incident…”
The AAP had faced a backlash from some sections after the happenings at Khirki Extension in January 2014, when AAP’s Malviya Nagar MLA Somnath Bharti, along with his supporters, had conducted a midnight raid on suspected drug peddling and prostitution and allegedly misbehaved with African women.
Party leader Sanjay Singh said, “Once when Somnath Bharti tried addressing the issue, the media went after him and everyone called him racist. This time, since the MEA is dealing with the issue and Delhi Police have been doing a decent job, we have not intervened in their work. Our legislators have repeatedly tried to bridge the gap between locals and Africans and we hope the trust deficit is removed.”
Singh added, “The attack on an Ola cab driver by Africans is as wrong as the attack on the Africans… It is not untrue that some Africans are involved in drug peddling and other illegal activities and police should take action against them. Such activities draw the ire of locals… of course, the locals should not take the law into their hands.”
Bharti said, “The cultural difference between locals and Africans is huge. There is an urgent need to bridge this gap… After the ‘so-called raids’, we had formed an Indo-African coordination committee and called a meeting of locals and the African community in Khirki Extension. The gesture was taken well and three African women were ‘rescued’ from forced prostitution.” On the ‘raid’, Bharti said, “I never conducted raids, but went there on a tip-off. The exercise backfired because of vested interests. Politicians and the police are all involved in drug trafficking and illegal activities that fetch them big money. Therefore, they tried to disrupt our initiative then.”