An uneasy calm prevails in Khirki Extension. It seems like business as usual but that is far from the truth.
More than a month after former Delhi law minister Somnath Bharti, egged on by locals, ordered police to raid the house of a Ugandan women accused of prostitution, the area is all but ‘cleansed’ of people of African descent.
Apartments that were earlier rented out to Ugandan women in the area are vacant and ‘for rent’ posters are everywhere. And it is not just the Ugandans that have gone missing. Small businesses, such as kitchens and salons that people were running from their houses have all but disappeared.
But Bharti maintained that only the criminals had left. “That a prostitution and drug racket was operating from the area was common knowledge. After the police raids, the ones who were involved in it must have left for fear of being arrested. Two Nigerian men were arrested last night for selling drugs in the area. Those who are living here for legitimate reasons remain. They, in fact, have shown trust in me,” Bharti said.
“There are no African people here anymore. There are some in Hauz Rani (a neighbouring unauthorised colony) but they maintain a low profile. In Khirki Extension, you rarely see them anymore,” said a tea-stall owner who was quite popular with the foreigners.
The reluctance to talk about the incident is palpable. Most of the landlords refused to talk to the media and the few Africans that we spotted rushed off.
“The locals have become more violent after the January 15 incident. While most Africans have already left, the ones who remain are being forced to pay higher rents or vacate the house,” said a man from Nigeria who has been living in Delhi for the last six years.
The last month has also been slow for the landlords in the area. “All the Ugandan women who were living in our apartments left within weeks of the incident. We are looking for tenants but after the mass exodus, finding so many tenants is difficult,” said a landlord on condition of anonymity.