A video of a Nigerian national being brutally beaten up by a mob in Malviya Nagar went viral on 9 September after it was released by a TV news channel. Amad was allegedly caught stealing inside a flat in the south Delhi area.
The police took cognisance of the media reports and registered a case under Section 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) of the IPC, which is a non-bailable offence, and arrested five persons.
The Quint visited the area to find out more about the incident. We spoke to several people who had witnessed the incident, the police, local residents, and Nigerians who live in the locality.
Was It an Act of Racism?
Ahmad was allegedly caught stealing at house no 70 of Savitri Nagar, Malviya Nagar, at 4 am on 24 September. The owner of the house, Krishna Kumar, with the help of other residents, nabbed him and dragged him down the building. Within seconds, several people gathered around when they heard that a person was caught stealing. Simultaneously, Kumar dialled ‘100’ to call the police. Based on his complaint, the police registered a case of theft against Ahmad and arrested him.
According to the locals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the man was not beaten up because of his skin colour, and most of them condemned the act.
There had been around six theft cases reported in this locality in the past one-and-a-half months. People were already very anguished with such incidents. When they finally caught a thief, they couldn’t control their outburst and brutally assaulted him, which was wrong. But, it had nothing to do with his skin colour. Had he been an Indian, he would have been treated the same way.Malviya Nagar resident
A Nigerian businessman settled in India for the last five years disagrees.
When I saw the video on the internet, I felt bad seeing a man from my country bleeding and pleading for mercy. I feel it is a partial act of racism; had he not been dark coloured, he wouldn’t have been beaten so mercilessly. I am living here for years and I know what locals think about us. They don’t like us or our lifestyle. They feel we are criminals.David (name changed)
However, a retired police officer from Nigeria who is now living in Malviya Nagar, holds a different opinion.
A thief, if caught, would face a similar action from the mob in our country too. To connect it with racism would be a bit far-fetched. But, this doesn’t mean that people from my country aren’t mistreated. There are good Indians and there are bad Indians everywhere.Retired Nigerian Police Officer
According to the police, Ahmad never informed them, the doctors, or the magistrate that he was brutally beaten up by a mob before he was arrested on 24 September. When he was asked about his injuries, Ahmad allegedly told the police that he fell down while jumping from the terrace.
But when the police asked him again after the video went viral, Ahmad confessed to getting beaten up.
Locals Blame Police for the Incident
Angry with the media, family members of Kumar, who is now in jail for beating Ahmad, refused to talk to our reporter.
“Aap logo ke karan aaj mera bhai jail mein hai. Uss chor ko pakad te nahi toh kya usse chori karne dete. Public usse marti nahi toh kya uski aarti utarti?” (It is because of the media that my brother is in jail. What else could we do, not catch that thief? Do you expect the public to worship that thief for his act rather than beating him?” one of Kumar’s family members said.
It took some time to calm Kumar’s family member down and convince him to speak to us. Gradually, a few more family members joined the conversation. One of them blamed the police for the incident.
Had the police reached the spot early, the Nigerian wouldn’t have been beaten so badly. Police took one-and-half-hours to reach the spot. A PCR call was made at 4 am and police reached at 5:30 am. It is a small locality, and it didn’t take time for people to gather around. The mob went out of control; it became difficult to manage people till the police arrived.Kumar’s family
On the other hand, the police claimed their van reached the spot within 15 minutes.
Kumar’s family said Ahmad was well-built and had put oil on his arms so they become greasy and is easier to escape, and “that’s why people tied him to the pillar.”
However, they too conceded that people shouldn’t have beaten Ahmad up so badly.
Who is Ahmad?
Ahmad was sent to jail after he was produced before the magistrate on 24 September. According to the police, he has not yet revealed his whereabouts. All we know is that he is a Nigerian and had come to India on a student visa.
After he was arrested, police seized a wire cutter, a screwdriver, and a stolen phone from him. During the investigation, the police claim they discovered his involvement in two more theft cases in Malviya Nagar.
Ahmad doesn’t have a passport. He refused to tell us with whom or where he lives in Delhi.Investigating officer, Malviya Nagar
The police has written to the Nigerian Embassy and the Foreign Regional Registration Office to get details on Ahmad.
They Are the Scum of Our Society: Police Sources
According to the police, there are 200 to 250 Africans living in Khirki Extension next to Malviya Nagar.
Most of them are here because rented accommodation is cheap in the area and it is close to areas like Saket and Greater Kailash, said a property dealer in Khirki Extension. The number of Africans has reduced over the years because the landlords refuse to lease property to them, he added.
I had rented a flat to an African boy. One night, at around 2 am, I received a call from my another tenant that they are unable to sleep because of the foul-smelling food coming from the African boy’s house. I told him to maintain calm, but he didn’t listen and called the police. The African was kept in police custody overnight not because of the smelly food but because he was found with his girlfriend, who the police accused of being a prostitute. This turned out to be a way to threaten and extract money from the African boy.Siddiqui, property dealer, Khirki Extension
Siddiqui added that Africans are often addressed as ‘scum’ (“gandh”) by locals and the police. This, he said, was because of the cultural difference which was not accepted in our country.
Whenever a flat is rented to someone (person could be of any nationality), he/she undergoes a proper police verification. If the police want, they can easily stop all criminal activity but then it will curtail their hafta vasooli’ (protection money/bribe).Resident, Khirki Extension
“We are harassed and troubled more by the police than the locals because for the police, we are easy targets,” David said.
On the other hand, the police said drug peddling and other criminal activities in Malviya Nagar have reduced drastically.
Inhone (Africans) gandh toh bohot hi macha rakha tha. Ab toh bohot control aa gaya hai (The Africans had spread a lot of dirt in the neighbourhood. Now the situation is more under control).Senior Officer, Malviya Nagar Police Station
This is yet another incident of janata being the judge, jury, and executioner. Is this because of police inefficiency or lack of fear of being punished under the law? Also, was Ahmad treated so inhumanly because he was black or because of the recent spate of robberies? Would he have been treated differently if he was Caucasian? Does ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ extend only to a few?
(Breathe In, Breathe Out: Are you finding it tough to breathe polluted air? Join hands with FIT in partnership with #MyRightToBreathe to find a solution to pollution. Send in your suggestions to email@example.com or WhatsApp @ +919999008335)