Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has a tough time in Davos pacifying African leaders, who are extremely upset over Delhi law minister’s midnight raid. Anita Katyal reports
Commerce Minister Anand Sharma is learnt to have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi to apprise them about the strong reactions of African leaders over the safety of their nationals following Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharati’s controversial midnight raid on January 15.
African ministers, who met Sharma at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this week, were said to be extremely upset over this incident. They conveyed their concern about the safety of their nationals to the minister in the course of their discussions at the international meet.
It is reliably learnt that the African Union is planning to raise this issue at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
United Progressive Alliance sources told rediff.com that Sharma had a lot of explaining to do to the African ministers and had to repeatedly assure them that their nationals in India would not be harmed and that they would be provided necessary protection.
While pointing to the close relations between Africa and India, Sharma underlined that these ties would not be impaired.
Sources close to Sharma said India and African countries have been making a serious effort to strengthen their relations over the past several decades. New Delhi, it was pointed out, gave out a large number of scholarships to African students to study in Indian universities as part of this effort.
“It is shameful that Africans should be treated like this especially when we actively encourage them to visit our country,” a senior Congress minister told rediff.com.
This incident has blown into a serious issue as Bharati, who led the mob on the African nationals in Delhi’s Khirki Extension, holds a constitutional post and is expected to uphold the law and not violate it.
While Indian officialdom has ramped up its efforts to contain any adverse fallout of the recent ugly incident, Bharati continues to enjoy Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s confidence.
The Aam Admi Party is insisting that Bharati was in the clear and that he had done no wrong in ordering the police to raid African nationals residing in the South Delhi locality on an alleged plea that they were involved in a “drug and prostitution racket”.
The Ministry of External Affairs had swung into action following the incident, as it feared that it could snowball into a diplomatic row. The ministry was quick to condemn this incident and also convened a meeting of African envoys who were assured that appropriate action would be taken against the erring persons. The envoys were concerned about the treatment meted out to their nationals, especially women.
The MEA’s Secretary (west) Dinkar Khullar also underlined that the incident was an “aberration” and that there was no “racial targeting”, adding that India’s ties with Africa were rooted in the history of common opposition to apartheid and colonialism.
'We cannot condone this incident'
“The incident is utterly condemnable. We cannot condone it,” said MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin. “They were interested in knowing the facts of the situation and they did understand and appreciate the government of India’s view and were satisfied with the reiteration of its position. They were also concerned about tendencies being reported in the media,” he added.
The four Ugandan women, who were mobbed and forced to undergo a medical examination, have filed a police complaint. One of them has identified Bharati as the man who led the 'midnight raid' at her house.
“We were attacked on Wednesday night (January 15) by Indians who were led by Somnath Bharti. They are claiming we are blacks and we should leave their country. We were harassed; we were beaten. They had long sticks (sic) and they said we should leave their country or they'll kill us one by one. We don't know if being black is a crime," she told mediapersons after recording her statement before a magistrate.
Image: Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti has been under fire after he conducted a raid at Khirki Extension to bust an alleged drug and prostitution racket