Violence, abuse part of life for Africans in Delhi

  • Soumya Pillai and Mallica Joshi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 01, 2014 11:31 IST

For Joseph Akuma, going to the grocery store is a task he needs to specially prepare himself for.

“I have to prepare myself to not lose my cool, to be ignored by salespersons and to be charged more than the retail price,” said Akuma, 19, who lives in Vasant Vihar with friends and is from Nigeria. He came to Delhi a year ago as a student at a private university in Noida.

While incidents such as the one reported on Sunday, where a mob assaulted three African nationals inside the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station premises, are extreme, more covert forms of racism are common.

The people facing discrimination come from various countries in the African continent, USA and Europe as well. Some are part of the diplomatic circles, while some are here for studies or business. A largechunk of those who come to the city, do so as medical tourists.

All face discrimination in different forms. In high-profile areas such Khan Market and the malls of Vasant Vihar, store keepers ignore them and charge more money for products. In other areas such as Munirka and Khirki Extension, the discrimination is more open.

People of African descent in the city have learnt to live with the stares and judgment that they receive on the streets of Delhi but violence is also becoming increasingly common.

“Every time I go out at night, I am accosted for drugs. For people in the city, any African is a drug peddler. I am an M Phil student and am studying African literature but for most people around me my colour defines who I am,” said Lisa, who is from Cameroon and has been in India for three years.

The increasing violence, however, has raised the hackles of many African nationals.

For the 26-year-old Nigerian Percy Opuku, her stay in the capital has been a rollercoaster ride.

Though discrimination by shopkeepers, landlords and rickshaw drivers had become an everyday affair for her and her roommates but things got out of control after a bunch of around 15 neighbours beat her up, tore her clothes and hurled abuses at her in south Delhi’s Munirka village.

The incident took place in May when Opuku had gone to a grocery store in the neighbourhood to get some essentials. She alleges that when she was about to leave the store the shopkeeper suddenly started calling her a thief.

“Before I could realize what had happened, two men from the store grabbed my arm and started abusing me in Hindi. They then started gathering people walking on the streets. I was badly beaten up and my clothes were torn. But no one from the crowd tried to save me,” said Opuku.

The city had shown its racist face in February this year when former Delhi law minister Somnath Bharti asked police personnel to raid the homes of Ugandan women living in Khirki Extension in the dead of the night. The residents had alleged that they were involved in prostitution and drug peddling.

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