Millennium Post

Who says ‘no’ to Kejriwal?

The Delhi law minister Somnath Bharti’s recent unseemly conduct has confirmed the wisdom of those who decided that the police in the national capital should remain under the control of the Centre. Otherwise, there may be repetitions of the unprecedented scene of the external affairs ministry having to reassure the envoys of a specific group of countries – in this case, those from Africa – that their nationals are safe in Delhi.

The Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, may assert that he is not embarrassed by Bharti’s behaviour, but the country as a whole has been embarrassed by the sight of the meeting of the envoys with Indian officials. When the decision was taken, however, to keep the Delhi police under the centre’s control, it wasn’t because it was feared that a particular group of foreigners will face the wrath of the local government, but because of the Union government’s need to ensure that the police or any other official agency acted in accordance with diplomatic imperatives.

If the ministers of the Delhi government have not paid too much attention to this aspect of the matter, the reason is not only that they are novices, as a former member of Team Anna, Justice Santosh Hegde, has said, but because of their self-perception that they are holy warriors bent on remoulding the nation in their own lily-white image. In addition, their penchant for direct democracy, which led to the Janata durbar fiasco, has led to their overt dependence on the views of the locals assembled in mohalla committees.

Unfortunately, such gatherings cannot always be expected to take sensible decisions. As the Aam Aadmi Party’s eminence grise, Yogendra Yadav – grey eminence in wisdom, not in age – acknowledged, one cannot bank on a village committee acting dispassionately on Dalits. In such cases, it is often the caste and class prejudices which come to the fore. As is generally believed, what prevails in motley groups is the voice of the least common denominator or the ‘least intelligent’ people.

To make matters worse in this particular case, it is not caste or class biases which surfaced, but blatant racism directed against dark-skinned Africans. It is no secret that the latter are not the most popular among Delhi’s citizens – or, indeed, elsewhere in India – for not only are they kept at arm’s length by the intensely colour-conscious Indians, mainly the middle class, but their men are regarded as drug peddlers and the women as being of easy virtue. To quote from a recent article, ‘any resident of Malviya Nagar and Saket will tell you that prostitution is now big business and … the ugly truth is that some Africans are involved. One can see gaudily painted African women, smoking away and clearly waiting for customers’.

As a minister of a party of the middle class, the alacrity with which Bharti seized on such ‘inputs’ and decided to conduct a ‘raid’ – sans warrant - is understandable. But, it is the possibility of a maverick outfit coming to power in a local election and imposing its ill-conceived diktats on the city which must have persuaded the powers-that-be to keep the police under the Union home ministry. The mavericks may come to power at the Centre, too, but only as the part of a coalition where its capacity for flying off the handle will be kept in check.

Despite the advantages which the middle class enjoys in education and economic status, it hasn’t always been enlightened in its outlook. Historically, it is known to have backed fascism, as in Mussolini’s Italy because the trains ran on time, and in India, it supported Indira Gandhi’s throttling of democracy and Narendra Modi’s anti-Muslim pogrom, as the increase in the voting margins of Maya Kodnani, who is now in jail, showed. The middle class’s approval of the Emergency and the Gujarat riots is in sync with AAP’s disdain for constitutional norms, which gels with the party’s rejection of the existing ‘system’. Donning the garb of anti-corruption crusaders, the party is keen to make the most of the sab chor hai attitude and present itself as the heaven-sent deliverer from all forms of evil.

Just as Bharti had no time for the ‘due process’ of law in tracking down suspected sex workers and drug peddlers, Kejriwal is using former Union home secretary and now BJP member
R K Singh’s unsubstantiated charge about the Union home minister being at the receiving end of the protection money collected by the police from wrong-doers to allege that the Delhi police has deliberately allowed the drug traffickers and others to flourish. The practice of shooting from the hip served Kejriwal and his band of merry men well in their days in the opposition.

But, now, they are facing the possibility of legal entanglements for criminal intimidation and other offences with which the law minister has been charged.


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