NEW DELHI: The Delhi Police arrested five people on Sunday for allegedly attacking Africans l ast week and advised t he foreigners against late-night partying and drinking in public, saying such behaviour disturbs local residents.
None of the suspects were charged under racial abuse sections despite victims’ claims of race- motivated violence and mounting outrage over the spate of recent attacks on Africans in the city.
The police’s views resonated in comments by minister of state for external affairs VK Singh, who blamed the media for blowing up the “minor scuffles”.
“Why is media doing this? As responsible citizens let us question them and their motives,” he said.
But South African envoy Malose William Mogale described the attacks as “racist” and said he believed in the government’s ability to deal with the violence.
Senior ministers Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj also attempted to contain the fallout of the row and promised strict action with increased patrolling.
“Spoke to commissioner of police, Delhi regarding the incidents of physical assault against certain African nationals. Such incidents are condemnable,” Singh tweeted.
Six Africans were attacked in south Delhi’s Mehrauli last Thursday, roughly a week after a Congolese man, Masunda Kitanda Oliver, was bludgeoned to death in Vasant Kunj.
The repeated attacks have dented India’s image worldwide and sparked tit-for-tat violence on Indian-owned shops in Congo. A group of African diplomats threatened to boycott the government’s flagship Africa Day celebrations but were persuaded to desist. Several students and professionals from the continent living in Delhi have called for a protest in central Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Tuesday.
Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said she spoke to Singh and Delhi lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung, asking them to ensure security to Africans.
“They assured me that the culprits will be arrested soon and sensitisation campaign will be launched in areas where African nationals reside,” she tweeted.
But the police downplayed the incidents and said loud music and public consumption of liquor led to the violence last Thursday, calling on the local population to not misbehave with Africans.
“The situation is perfectly peaceful and no planned attacks have been carried out against the foreign nationals. These were only minor scuffles,” a Delhi Police statement said.
But Mogale disagreed. “It is a racist attack. But it is not government policy. It is people who might want to tarnish the image of the country,” he said.
The envoy said the attacks come as a surprise “especially given the fact (that) our relations are decade and decade old”.
The five arrested - - Babu (32), Om Prakash (24), Kunal (20), Ajay (25), and Rahul (24) – live in the Mehrauli village of Rajpur Khurd and fled after the attacks were reported, police said. They were charged with wrongful restraint, causing hurt and criminal intimidation.
“We sought help from our local intelligence and they were arrested within 24 hours. Though no African came forward to lodge any complaint, we took action and registered the FIRs. Efforts are on to arrest the remaining persons,” deputy commissioner of police (south) Ishwar Singh said.
He said police met l ocal residents and Africans on Thursday evening to discuss their concerns with the foreign nationals asked to get in touch with law-enforcement authorities in case of any difficulty.
“A meeting was also held with residents of villages Rajpurkhurd and Maidan Garhi ( both i n Mehrauli), attended by 250 villagers where they were sensitised to prevent recurrence of such incidents,” he added.
Separately, foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said government will transport back home Oliver’s mortal remains.
“In the unfortunate death of Mr.Masunda Oliver, the government will assist his family to travel to India to receive his mortal remains,” he said.
This is not the first time India is in the international news for alleged racially motivated attacks on Africans. In January, a mob in Bengaluru allegedly dragged a Tanzanian woman out of a car and stripped her. Last year, a mob in Delhi’s busy Rajiv Chowk metro station allegedly attacked three African students. (With agency inputs)