Jayashree Nandi,TNN | Jan 24, 2014,

Whenever we walk by, men ask kitna paisa: African women
 African women in Khirki village share sordid tales of racial abuse, hate
NEW DELHI: Somnath Bharti’s midnight raid to catch prostitutes at Khirki village “red handed” didn’t shock many African women in the neighbourhood. It made them feel more cornered. Racism, they said, was rampant in the locality. Area residents often typecast them, branding them “prostitutes” or “loose”, irrespective of what they do for a living.

“Whenever we walk by, men ask us kitna paisa (how much money?) We ignore them. But we are not prostitutes, we are refugees,” said a 33-year-old woman from Congo. She works for a private institute in Khirki and was with four friends from her country when TOI spoke to her.

“There’s a bad war in our country,” a man from the group informed. “Getting an India visa was easy so we came here. I don’t think we can stay here long. People call us monkeys and monsters. It’s strange because there are so many Indians in Congo.” People here, they feel, tend to over-simplify things and are ignorant of African communities and countries.

“Not every African woman is a prostitute. We feel insulted and angry but are helpless,” added the Congolese woman showing her United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees card.

Most women near the spot of the midnight raid avoided speaking. Those who talked appeared disturbed. “How would you feel if all Indian men in Africa are called rapists? There are so many rapes in Delhi. Why should Indians brand us sex workers or drug addicts,” a woman fromUganda (24) said. “If a male Indian friend picks me up in his car, am I a prostitute? Indians hate us. That’s all,” she added.

Some locals have similar views. Mukesh runs a studio at Khirki village and gets many African customers. It’s wrong to brand all women sex workers, he says. “Yes, there are women involved in sex work but why chase them at midnight? In reality, there are different kinds of women here, they are very friendly. African men behave. I think such a raid was uncalled for.” Many Africans have moved out after the raid or locked themselves in their rooms.

AB Nio (39), the only person who agreed to be named said he wanted to return to Congo. “It’s dangerous back home but I would like to go back. There is too much hatred here. I don’t know whether there are prostitutes here, there may be,” he said. Some African women did acknowledge that prostitution and drugs were a problem in the area. A Ugandan woman (35), doing her diploma in information technology said: “I don’t think Indians are racist. Some African men and women also misbehave. They shouldn’t cross the line. I have many Indian friends in Uganda. Women engaging in prostitution shouldn’t get involved with Indian men because there is a taboo here,” she said.

Meantime, several residents organized a protest to demand justice for law minister, Bharti. Many residents who were protesting said: “Our behen betis can’t step out of the homes because of these people. Why are people protesting against Bharti? He is the one who came to our rescue,” said Devinder Chauhan, a resident.

“The entire allegation against Bharti is baseless. He is being punished for listening to people. For two years we have been calling police and politicians but no one paid heed. We are apolitical and are worried about Bharti,” added Talat Mehmood, a member of RWA.

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