Clash with Africans over lifestyle, not racism, say locals

New Delhi: At the root of the recent spate of confrontations between foreigners from Africa and Delhiites, which claimed the life of a Congolese man, are differences in lifestyle, language and level of understanding, many claim. A lack of tolerance for differences has also been seen as adding to the problem, as it comes to the fore in talks with several residents in Rajpur Khurd and Maidan Garhi in Mehrauli area of south Delhi.  A 25-year-old student from Nigeria, who did not want to be named, told IANS: "I have to face language problem everywhere in the city and it sometime hurts when people laugh at me when I fail to understand their language."  The African youth said that he used to become angry in the beginning when people laughed at him but his friends and relatives told him to ignore it.  Asked if he faced racial slur in the one and a half years he has been here, the MBA student said he was unsure, not knowing what was said about him. "Some people don't laugh. I don't know exactly what they talk about me."  Underlying that uncertainty is the feeling that they may not be welcome.  A South African in her thirties said she often faced comments on her dress but these she felt were not racial in nature. "Initially I thought they were commenting on me because I am not from their community. But they also do this with other Delhi girls residing in my locality. I have slapped several such people in the past for doing so, but now I don't care," she told IANS, requesting that she not be named.  A similar situation was described by ax 45-year-old Tanzanian national, who has been residing in Delhi with his wife and two children for three years on a business visa.  "I have changed more than 15 houses so far because of my differences with others over our family's style of living. I had to argue sometimes with the landlord and some locals on occasions," the trade in readymade garments told IANS.  In Rajpur Khurd of Chattarpur and Maidan Garhi, about 300 persons of African origin live, mostly in rented accommodation.  Tension prevailed in these two places on May 28 after four separate incidents of assault on Africans took place within 24 hours.  A Nigerian national, Kenneth Igbinosa, 29, a priest at the local church, was attacked following a minor brawl with local residents when he was going in his car with his wife and son.  Another Nigerian, Lockey, was allegedly assaulted after he intervened to save the driver of the auto-rickshaw in which he was travelling from being beaten by a car driver following an argument between them. Cameroonian businessman Pierres and his sister Vicky were attacked by a group when they were getting off an auto-rickshaw. A group of people also attacked Ugandan national Shamima Nazzasi, a salon owner, with sticks and pieces of wood in Chhattarpur in south Delhi.  When this correspondent met some local residents in Rajpur Khurd and Maidan Garhi over the attacks on Africans, some of them complained about the way the foreigners "behaved".  Amrita Patil, a housewife in her early 50s, said she was fearful of the African youths who "drink and wander" in the streets in the area late at night.  "I have complained to the police but nothing has happened. My daughter studies in college. She sometimes comes around eight in the evening from her coaching classes. I always pass my time in tension till she comes back," she said. Ravindra Pujari, a government employee, said the Africans residing in his building create a lot of noise in the night and pick up a fight when asked not to do so.  "They put on loud music late at night and create a ruckus. They don't bother about others. I and other people residing in my building have told them several times, but they don't mend their ways. They sometime get into heated arguments and are ready to fight," Pujari told IANS. Several of the locals said they had no problems with the Africans because of their skin colour, only for what they termed as "their behaviour".  On May 20, Congolese man Masonda Ketada Olivier, 29, was beaten to death by three men after an altercation over hiring of an auto-rickshaw in south Delhi's Vasant Kunj area turned violent. The recent attacks on Africans have caused an uproar. Envoys from several African nations threatened to boycott the Africa Day event following the murder of the Congolese national.  Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Kumar Verma on Monday met a delegation of nationals from Africa and assured them about their security. Joint Commissioner of Police (south-eastern range) R.P. Upadhyay has been appointed as a nodal officer to handle their problems.  The members were told to reach out to the police immeditely if they faced any problem. Delhi Police has also started sensitisation programme where people from Africa and Indian community members from the two areas were present to improve understanding between the residents. Everyone was told not take the law into their hands.