New Delhi: Life for the Africans at the crammed village of Rajpur Khurd in south Delhi’s Chhatarpur is crawling back to normalcy, a month after a group of persons from African nations were allegedly attacked by locals.
At the break of dawn, the tapering lanes of Rajpur Khurd wakes up to life and several Africans can be seen pulling up shutters — their occupations range from teachers, chefs and hairdressers to laundry service providers.
In the past six years, close to a thousand men and women from African nations, mostly from Nigeria, Uganda, Congo, South Africa and Cameroon, have settled in Rajpur Khurd. In May, around a week after a Congolese youth was beaten to death in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj area, groups of Africans were allegedly attacked at the twin villages of Rajpur Khurd and Maidan Garhi in Chhatarpur in four separate incidents.
The surname ‘Rathi’ on most of the name plates outside the twin villages draws its significance from the fact that the villages were set up by one Raj Singh Rathi, a Jat farmer who came to Chhatarpur over 900 years ago, said Rathi’s descendant Bhim Sain Rathi.
Almost all natives of the twin villages belong to the Rathi clan, he said. He further said, the Africans started settling at Rajpur Khurd since 2008, when government started acquiring lands from the Rathis. So to protect the vacant tracts, the Rathis started building houses and renting them out.
“The best catch were the Africans who paid more than the others. We could make them shell out anything between Rs 10,000 – Rs 15,000, which wouldn’t be possible in case of locals,” said Rathi, who himself owns three buildings.
With the passage of time, a strong resentment apparently started to take shape, based largely on the differences in lifestyles.
“The resentment is natural. They are always loitering around. For them, life is all about clubs, late night parties and alcohol,” said another local Himayat Singh. However, no violence was reported after the May 26 incident and things are getting back to normal, Singh added.
The resentment crawled its way to the African community too, following which they started distancing themselves from the locals.
The process led to several rifts which started taking place every now and then over a range of issues which ranged from negotiating fares with the autowallahs and landlords over rents.
“The autowallas charge us more. The landlords think that they can loot us as we are foreigners. But they never try to feel our pain, that even we come here away from our families looking for work or better education,” says Dacey, a Nigerian-national.
Another African woman, Sonia, said, “We feel that there is a very strong racist approach against us which makes us feel all the more unsafe. The way we live and dress up is always scrutinised and talked about by the local people, which is highly uncomfortable.”
The Africans who own shops in the area and work there also do not feel very optimistic about the way locals treat them. They say that the locals lack sensitivity.
“They don’t consider us friends. I understand this is not a posh area, this is a village where people are conservative but they can at least respect our emotions. Sometimes I want to have meaningful talk with them, but nobody appreciates that,” said Mickey, who owns an eatery in Rajpur Khurd.
This is not how we would treat them had they come to our native places. Though things are normal now, we have to understand that these are bigger issues, Mickey said. After the series of incidents, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had ensured safety and security of African people in the country, following which Delhi Police launched a series of sensitisation meetings to address the issue.
“They (African nationals) have come to our country, they are our guests and friends. They have come here just because they trust us. This is something which was communicated well in the sensitisation meetings,” DCP (south) Ishwar Singh said.
One of the meetings was chaired by Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh, who was accompanied by Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Kumar Verma.