Africans allege racism, locals blame ‘loud habits’

There are over 40,000 African students, professionals and medical tourists in India, more than a quarter are based in the Capital

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:02 pm IST

Published - June 06, 2016 12:00 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Colour prejudice begins at home realised Delhi-girl Mona when she married Charles, a Nigerian, four years ago. There was stiff opposition from her brother who was not the “least bit receptive to the idea of his sister getting married to a black man”.

That hurdle was crossed over time with some difficulty, but the outside world remains as cruel as ever.

Mona has allegedly witnessed her husband suffer through countless racist jabs whenever they step out of their rented accommodation in Kishangarh, a hub for Africans who come to the city.

Charles has been called everything from a monkey to a Habshi (a word used derogatorily by the locals for Africans) to Kaalu (Hindi for black).

The inter-racial couple know and respect each other’s cultures, but accept that not everyone is capable of doing so.

“Habshi is not my name, why should I bother,” says Charles, who works as a facilitator between a South Delhi hospital and medical tourists from his country.

Dangerous times

His nonchalant shrug while uttering those words can be interpreted as a desire to avoid confrontation or a sense of resignation that nothing can be done.

But there are periodical and violent reminders that sometimes the racist taunts turn deadly, such as the recent murder of Masonda Ketada Olivier in their locality.

Since that incident, four other counts of violence against Africans have been reported in neighbouring Rajpur Khurd.

The foreigners living in the city are concerned for their safety, an issue that has made ripples all the way back to their respective countries in Africa.

There are over 40,000-odd African students, professionals and medical tourists in India. A majority of them are based in the Capital. They mainly stay in Kishangarh, Chhatarpur, Khirki Extension in Malviya Nagar, Uttam Nagar, Lajpat Nagar and Mehrauli.

Locals furnish reasons

They have stayed in relative peace, but recent incidents have once again brought into focus their safety from the allegedly racial mindset of locals, who have allowed words like Habshi to gain acceptance and believe it is okay to resort to physical attacks to teach them a lesson.

Locals, however, blame the Africans and some of their habits as the real cause of trouble.

The Hindu visited many of these areas since the attack to gather view from those on either side of the debate.

The locals blame Africans for their dressing sense (a special emphasis is laid on how provocatively women dress), drinking out in the open and making noise.

More importantly, the locals have tagged almost all the Africans as being drug dealers or prostitutes — sometimes both.

“How can one allow them to drink at odd hours and that too in the open. What impact will it have on the children?,” asks Sanjay Rathi, a resident of Rajpur Khurd.

That statement broadly reflects the sentiments in all areas. It’s even endorsed by the police.

Karl, a 23-year-old man from Congo, agrees that such things do happen and locals have a reason to complain, but says that those who indulge in such illegal acts are few, but all of them are made to “suffer”.

For using the word suffer, Karl tells a story about his brother Damas, who was attacked by a group of locals for intervening in a fight.

“I feel aghast that I see that man [who attacked Damas] everyday but cannot do anything because the police won’t take action against him as they have prejudices against Africans that we are loud people, that we are aggressors and keep fighting among ourselves and with others,” says Karl.

Language barrier

Language, he adds, is another barrier they face as they are not very conversant in either Hindi or English.

Karl says that it is here that Nigerians have an advantage over those coming from predominantly French-speaking countries like him, as far as assimilation with the local crowd, or at least the English-speaking crowd.

“In Nigeria, the medium of instruction in schools is English, which is why they are more proficient and have an advantage over us. This is also why you will see more Nigerians in Delhi and elsewhere in India as they are quick to seize the opportunities that come their way,” says Karl, a resident of Kishangarh

Of late, another grudge by locals against the community is their delay in paying rent and overstaying by fudging records.

Yogesh, a landlord, had over a dozen flats rented out to Africans till a couple of years ago.

Now there are just four.

Few overstaying in Delhi

The allegation of overstaying, however, is not backed by facts, if intelligence sources are to be believed.

According to them, action against Africans illegally staying in Delhi since 2014 has been negligible

Delhi, due to the location of the Indira Gandhi International airport here, is considered the largest entry point for Africans into India

More than 10,000 Africans are living in Delhi out of which nearly 90 per cent are from Nigeria.

Abhishek, a student of Jawahar Lal Nehru University, who is also a member of the World Organisation of Students and Youth (WOSY) — an international student and youth organisation, says that each incident of violence needs to be analysed in the proper context and warns that proper caution has to be exercised in labelling an incident a racist attack as it brings a bad name to the Indian community else where.

Charles, a Nigerian, has been called everything from a monkey to a

Habshi to Kaalu

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