The All Too ‘Aam’ Face of Racism and Sexism in Delhi

Last year, a large number of young people in the anti-rape movement in Delhi called for ‘Bekhauf Azadi’ – Fearless Freedom – explicitly rejecting the kind of ‘security’ that was a euphemism for forcing women to prove their ‘respectability’ and their ‘modesty’ in exchange for ‘protection.’

A year later, we are faced with a frightening situation, where an organised assault led by a Minister on African women and also some transgender people in a South Delhi mohalla is being justified as a measure to make Indian women safe.

The AAP’s lack of a well-defined policy or ideological position on gender and other social issues had been valorised by many. The AAP has tried to position itself as the ‘natural home’ of all people’s movements. But it has consciously remained aloof from India’s women’s movement, choosing to articulate any pro-women policies in purely in terms of bureaucratic reforms or in terms of policing rather than in terms of social change.

AAP ideologue Yogendra Yadav, preparing to make a bid for power in Haryana, has maintained silence on the anti-dalit and anti-women actions of khap panchayats, talking instead of the need for ‘dialogue’ with khaps, and suggesting to resolve ‘social conflicts’ by dialogue rather than enforcing laws (http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/arvind-kejriwal-s-aap-now-eyes-haryana-open-to-dialogue-with-khap-panchayats-468220). He has even said that if the ‘entire Jat community’ reaches a consensus in favour of the khaps’ demand that Hindu marriage law to prevent marriages within the same ‘gotra’ or clan, there is no problem with amending the law. How can a community ‘consensus’ be allowed to overrule the right of individuals to marry whosoever they please in a democracy? Can a community consensus be allowed to impose social boycott on dalits, or to prevent girls from loving someone from a forbidden caste or gotra? Similar troubling questions about the AAP’s social policy soon made an appearance in the very heart of Delhi, when the Law Minister branded African women as prostitutes and drug peddlers, and instigated a mob to assault them, after he failed to get the police to ‘raid’ the homes of the Africans and arrest the women. The Government has objected to the Police’s refusal to obey the Minister’s order for a ‘raid’; the reality is that this was no raid, it was a gender and race riot, instigated by the Minister.

The Law Minister tried to stoke the passions of prejudice and moral outrage against foreign ‘prostitutes’, whom he labelled as a threat to ‘local ma/behen/beti.’ The fact is that neither the Minister nor any mob can have the right to ‘cleanse’ the community of sex-workers. Labelling sex-workers as ‘polluters of social morality’ and throwing them out of a community is much like labelling dalits ‘polluters of caste purity’ and forcing them to live outside the main village.

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