Centre scrambles to reassure Africans

Updated - November 16, 2021 06:02 pm IST

Published - January 18, 2014 07:16 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A file picture of Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti.

A file picture of Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti.

The Centre on Saturday promised action to envoys from Africa and asked the Delhi Police Commissioner to set up an office to handle complaints from foreigners after the incident involving Ugandan nationals, including two women, and a mob led by Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti in New Delhi on Thursday night.

The incident has since snowballed with several envoys from Africa calling South Block to protest and seek details. Mindful of the potential of an adverse fall-out of this incident on India’s relations with African countries, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) sought an urgent meeting with African envoys who were in the national capital on a weekend.

A senior MEA official told over 20 African envoys that the political leadership at the highest levels was concerned about the incident which, in the Centre's view, the incident was "utterly condemnable’’ and "cannot be condoned’’.

The MEA was spurred into action as this was the second major incident involving blacks in the country. The Centre was forced to intervene and placate the Nigerians after one of their nationals was beaten to death in Goa which was followed by State Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar asking the police to locate Nigerians and other foreign nationals.

Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs Dinkar Khullar also assured them that the Government intended take action against those responsible for the predicament of Ugandan nationals. Most of the envoys accepted the Foreign Office’s explanation that this was not Government action.

The women tested negative for drugs after a late night showdown between the police and Mr. Bharti who had alleged they were indulging in narcotic peddling and prostitution. The police had earlier refused Mr. Bharti's bidding to raid their house in the absence of a warrant.

On Friday, the showdown between the police and Aam Aadmi Party had reached the Centre when Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal met Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.

But the police-AAP tussle took a different turn after diplomats from African countries conveyed their displeasure over the incident, suggesting racial profiling.

Mr. Khullar, who was joined by all senior diplomats covering sub-Saharan Africa, also assured the African envoys that there was no deliberate targeting of the nationals of any country and this incident should be treated as an aberration.

He also told the envoys that the police will deploy extra patrols to tackle complaints and safeguard people in the national capital including foreigners from vigilantism.

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