The Weekend Leader - In defence of AAP minister's 'vigilantism'

In defence of AAP minister's 'vigilantism'

M.R. Narayan Swamy


Delhi's Law Minister Somnath Bharti deserves kudos for what he did the other night - going after an alleged prostitution ring involving Africans and Indians.

It is no one's case that every word uttered by Bharti was right and everyone he pointed an accusing finger at was in the wrong.

But it is plain silly to accuse the legislator-minister of vigilantism.

Bharti represents Malviya Nagar in the Delhi assembly. Saket, where I live, adjoins Malviya Nagar but is not part of his constituency.

Hauz Rani, from where he got complaints of the alleged prostitution ring, is a cheek by jowl area that falls in his constituency and is home to a large number of Muslims. It is boxed between the more prosperous Malviya Nagar and Saket.

I have lived in Saket - one of the smallest residential localities in Delhi -- since 1982. When we moved in, it was a serene tree-lined area, and it remained so for years.

The PVR cinema complex and the pubs and high-end eateries which followed took away our peace - I assume forever.

Saket has since expanded rapidly. It is now home to two famous landmarks: Saket court and shopping malls.

It is but natural that people with money pour into Saket for shopping and fun. If the locals are grudging, it is mainly because of the unending traffic snarls - and a new set of values.

I know nothing about drugs. But any resident of Malviya Nagar and Saket (and the areas within this jurisdiction) will tell you that prostitution is now big business.

And while this may sound politically incorrect, the ugly truth is that some Africans are involved.

One can see gaudily painted African women, smoking away and clearly waiting for "customers", late in the night in the PVR complex.

From a distance, I have seen them haggling with Indian men in swanky cars. You don't need a PhD to make out what is going on.

This is precisely the picture Minister Bharti painted when he described what he saw. The area he was referring to lies just outside Saket.

As K.P.S. Gill once said, no communal riot can last more than 48 hours unless there is official collusion.

Similarly, while prostitution rackets can have a unilateral start, they cannot go on and on unless the police look the other way.

Are the police doing that? I don't know, but I do know that many in Malviya Nagar and Saket know that a serious problem is not being addressed.

A friend who lives in Saket says he has warned his daughter - who was my daughter's classmate - not to venture into the PVR complex late at night. "It's a pick-up joint," he says.

As I said, it is possible that the people Bharti pointed fingers at might not all be part of a racket. It is equally possible that some of the arguments of the police on the legal front may be technically valid.

But that doesn't hide the fact that there is a major problem in the neighbourhood.

It made humorous reading that "brave" police officers stood up to Bharti - and told him his limits. They could afford to do that because they knew he can't harm them. Delhi Police doesn't report to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The episode is also an indicator why the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is here to stay, irrespective of when Vinod Kumar Binny - with BJP's help -- topples Kejriwal.

If residents seek help from their legislator to tackle a criminal issue, it says a lot about their faith in police. And when the police seem more eager to put down the unconventional politician than the problem, it says a lot about our system.

It is this that gave rise to the AAP - and will keep providing it oxygen.

(M.R. Narayan Swamy is Executive Editor in IANS. The views expressed are personal.)

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