Amazingly, this has been a mixed week for people of African origin living in the Indian capital. Three young men were attacked by a racist mob on the Delhi Metro on Sunday, which heightened fears in the community. But this week, Delhi Police also filed a criminal chargesheet against former Delhi Law minister Somnath Bharti, who led another mob in a horrendous attack against African residents of a South Delhi neighbourhood earlier this year.

Delhi's African population mainly lives in three areas: Khirki village, Munirka, Satya Niketan and Kingsway Camp. African residents who Scroll spoke with in Munirka said they were not unduly surprised by the incident at Rajiv Chowk metro station, which was captured by several by-standers on video.

“We face racism even while peacefully walking on the streets,” said Peter Ambrose, a Nigerian national living in Munirka. “In an ideal world, those people should have left the three Africans alone, especially when law enforcement had detained them for questioning. But we live in Delhi, where looking down on Africans is a common practice.”

Overt racism

Many African residents have given up hope that the authorities will keep them safe. They claim policemen misbehave with them and question them unnecessarily, believing them to be involved in illegal activities, and that Indians constantly refer to them by racist epithets such as kalu and habshi.

“Covert forms of racism are common in Delhi, especially at public places like shopping malls or a market place,” said John Lambou, a Congolese medical student living in Safdarjung Enclave. “We have learnt to live with stares and judgment from people on the streets. But the increasing violence against African nationals is a serious concern and law enforcement needs to take serious steps.”

In May, a 26-year-old Nigerian woman, Percy Opuku, was brutally beaten up at a grocery store in Munirka by the shopkeeper and 15 other men. She alleged that the mob mostly comprised residents from the area and auto drivers. They abused her in Hindi and tore her clothes, according to a statement given to the local police station.

Midnight vigilante

In February, Somnath Bharti, a senior member of the Aam Aadmi Party and then the law minister of Delhi, led a contingent of party workers into Khirki village, where many Africans live. They entered the area late at night, barging into homes, accusing several African women of running prostitution and drug rackets.

Africans living in Delhi were happy that Bharti is finally being charged for his crimes.

“The Indian government should make a law or a policy that gives us immunity against local violence,” said Joe, a resident of Khirki Village and a student in a private university in Noida. “Especially since there have been enough incidents of violence against African nationals."