April 21, 2012. Timothy, a student from Ivory Coast, was on his way back from a party in Dwarka, Sector 18. “I stopped an auto-rickshaw, the driver said it would cost Rs 100 to go to Sector 19. I told him there was no way I would pay him more than the usual fare of Rs 50. Angry, the man started abusing me. Soon, he was joined by others and they beat me up,” Timothy said. That was his last memory of that day.
Timothy woke up from a coma two months later. “My hospital bill came to $12,000, but my mother was forced to pay $88,000. I was forced to stop school. I came here in search of a better future, but I can’t help but wonder, if there’s a future for me in this country at all,” Timothy said, pointing to the scars on his face and arms.
Timothy was one among many who decided to come forward to talk about discrimination they have been facing during their stay in the capital.
The informal get-together — Colours of Discrimination — was held at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Delhi University. It saw students and academicians from the Northeast and African residents share stories and experiences of alleged “racial profiling” in the city.
“I find it hard to believe that this is the India I liked and loved, through Bollywood films. Even as I speak to you, my home does not have water and power, though the rest in the building I stay have both. Things are getting really nasty now. If the adage, ‘our actions speak louder than words’, holds true, then everything about the city’s actions say we are not welcome. But, they are unwilling to let us go, because then whom would they charge such exorbitant rents from?” Jason, a resident of Khirki Extension, said.
“It’s strange because nobody thinks of themselves as racist. If we need to tackle this issue heads on, we need to accept two things: First, all of us are complicit in this system, and, second, we are all not the same. We are not Nido Tainam. We are different, and differences should be talked about,” Leki Thungon, a researcher at Delhi School of Economics, said.
The group also expressed apprehension over trusting political parties. “We should be wary of political parties knowing that parties will not take a stand on the issue. It’s not about an individual, it’s about an institutionalised mentality about race that is difficult to get rid of,” Soibam Haripriya, a poet and researcher at Delhi School of Economics, said.