On May 20, Masunda Kitada Oliver, a 23-year-old post-graduate African student in Delhi was beaten to death by a group of men allegedly over a brawl over an autorickshaw ride. The men chased him around the busy Vasant Kunj area and attacked him with stones. Oliver, who was minutes short of his 24th birthday, died of his injuries at AIIMS. As India rushed to control the damage with a foreign ministry press statement condemning the attack, news of several more sporadic incidents poured in.
Some Africans in south Delhi's Mehrauli area were attacked. At least six persons were injured. Meanwhile, a brother-sister duo from Cameroon were attacked around the same time in the area. As India insisted the attacks weren't racial in nature, police carried out arrests in connection to the assault, and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj personally took up the issue with Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, Africans planned a demonstration at Jantar Mantar to protest against the killing of Oliver, a Congolese man who had recently taken up a teaching job in the national capital.
(New Delhi: Mos for External Affairs V K Singh meets with African Heads of Mission during the Africa Day Celebration at ICCR in New Delhi. PTI Photo by Manvender Vashist)
However, while the situation continued to remain tense, with Indian administration trying its best to restore normalcy and allay fears among the community that has repeatedly complained of racism, Union Minister V K Singh had a predictable response to the whole issue.
Singh, who has a penchant for using derogatory words such as "presstitutes" for the media, shifted the blame squarely on it, calling the attacks on Africans in Rajpur Khurd a "minor scuffle" and called on people to "question the motive of the media".
Had detailed discussion with Delhi Police and found that media blowing up minor scuffle as attack on African nationals in Rajpur Khurd— Vijay Kumar Singh (@Gen_VKSingh) May 29, 2016
Why is media doing this? As responsible citizens let us question them and their motives— Vijay Kumar Singh (@Gen_VKSingh) May 29, 2016
The Broadcast Editors' Association (BEA), a television editors body, slammed Singh for his remarks and said it has taken up the comments with the "contempt it deserves."
"He is in the habit of making this kind of absurd statements which are not in consonance with the spirit of democracy," its General Secretary N K Singh said. He said the Minister should know that it is not a military regime where media dance to the tune of power packs. "We would advise the Prime Minister to give lessons in Indian Constitution to the Minister," Singh told PTI.
Kenneth Igbinosa, 29, a Nigerian national and his wife Kate, 24, and four-month-old son Blessed were returning after attending a church meeting in Fatehpur Beri when he told the Indian Express that a group of people blocked the road and "started banging their fists on my car". Some allegedly carried sticks and iron rods and one from the mob shattered his windshield with a cricket bat. The couple, that was injured in the attack, fled the area.
Vikky, 30, an Ugandan national told the paper they disembarked from an auto-rickshaw in front of their house when a group of at least 10 people showed up and started shouting slogans of "go back to your country…go back to your country".
Shockingly, a local shopkeeper told the paper in Rajpur Khurd, where an uneasy calm prevailed after the spate of attacks, that "the Africans were creating too much trouble … they were almost asking for it.”
PTI reported that five persons were arrested yesterday and one fresh case was registered in connection with the alleged assault on some Africans in south Delhi's Mehrauli area in which at least six persons were injured. Those arrested have been identified as Babu (32), Om Prakash (24), Rahul (24), Ajay (25) and Kunal (20).
Three more persons have been identified and the police are looking out for them, DCP (south) Ishwar Singh said. Kunal was earlier suspected to be a minor and his actual age was verified after scanning several documents, a senior official said.
Meanwhile, a fresh case in the matter was registered in connection with the assault of the brother-sister duo. The arrests were made in connection will all four cases taken together.
Instructed CP Delhi to take strict action against the attackers & increase police patrolling in these areas to ensure security of everyone— Rajnath Singh (@BJPRajnathSingh) May 29, 2016
Police have claimed the attacks were not planned and coordinated and not racial in nature. While the victims alleged that they were racially abused and attacked with bats and rods by small mobs, police denied the allegations attributing two of the incidents to disputes over Africans playing loud music and the other to a scuffle over public drinking.
In fact Delhi police has apparently advised foreigners against late-night partying and drinking in public, saying such behaviour disturbs local residents.
During investigation it emerged that the first incident took place when a man was heading to a hospital with his ailing mother in his car and got stuck in a congested lane. Ahead of him was an African man in his car who was playing music loudly.
When the former asked the African person to lower the volume and let his car pass, he refused citing a congested road ahead of him. Following this, an argument broke out between the African man and some locals.
I have asked Gen V.K.Singh MOS and Secretary Amar Sinha to meet #Africanstudents who hv announced demonstration at Jantar Mantar.— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) May 29, 2016
I have spoken to Shri Raj Nath Singh ji and Lt Governor Delhi reg attack on African nationals in South Delhi yesterday./1— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) May 29, 2016
Police are still trying to join the dots to ascertain how the other incidents took place around the same time in such close proximity.
South African envoy Malose William Mogale has said he has firm belief in the government here to deal with such incidents.
"It's racist attacks. But it is not government policy. It is people who might want to tarnish the image of the country, India, to be portrayed to the world that it is the country where there is an emerging trend of racism and more foreigners are not allowed," he said.
Mogale, acting High Commissioner of South Africa here, said these African human beings come to help country in its growth as some of migrants come with a set of skills to assist the economy in leap forward.
Rajnath Singh has spoken to Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Kumar Verma and expressed concern over the attacks.
(With inputs from PTI)