ON COVER : African and Indian Residents of Khirkee Village Speak at Sit-In Against Racist Violence

“My friend told me, don’t go outside, they are beating up African women. I was planning to go out, but I stayed in and locked my door. They banged on our door, I was terrified. They beat up and groped other Ugandan women that night (the night that Somnath Bharti led the ‘raid’). In Khirkee, there have been many such attacks in the past. On one occasion, a man broke a beer bottle and slashed my friend’s leg with it, she was bleeding. I have been stoned by men. They often touch our breasts, grope us as we pass, they brand us as prostitutes. We are very scared.” – Brenda, a Ugandan woman who lives in Khirkee

“The RWA in Khirkee has been activated in the past year, not over concerns of sanitation, water etc, but on an overtly racist plank, profiling and targeting the local African community. There have been multiple instances of violence against African women, and even African kids faced discrimination at school. The police used to be insensitive to the complaints of the Africans. But after we wrote letters to the police and spoke to them, the police’s attitude has become more sensitive and principled. The SHO there has, in fact, acted responsibly when he received racist complaints about how Africans’ ‘food stinks’ or how ‘women dress in short skirts.’ The complaints of so-called ‘drug and sex rackets’ need to be seen in the context of this organised racist targeting. We ask the Government if the SHO and local police should act as an obedient arm of racist sentiment? If the SHO is transferred, after our patient efforts have actually made him respond sensitively and responsibly, it will send a message to the police that they should not defend the rights of the minorities or foreign nationals.” – Aastha Chauhan, an artist who has long experience of working among the African community in Khirkee

These were some of the voices from Khirkee village that were heard at a sit-in against racism, at Jantar Mantar on 19th January, that had been organised by the JNU Students’ Union, AISA, AIPWA, RYA, and several other concerned individuals and activists. At the sit-in, the protestors gave a standing ovation to African drummers and hip-hop performers from Khirkee (who sang the Hindi ‘Duniya ek numberi to main dus numberi!).

Speaking at the sit-in, Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of AIPWA, said “Mr Kejriwal says his Minister and his Government are not racist: we are here to tell him that to encourage a mob to catch hold of African women and eunuchs because he says they are sex-workers, is both racist and sexist, and downright unconstitutional. The Government and the AAP party should remove Mr Bharti from his post as Law Minister.”