Taking serious note of the attack on three students of African origin at the Rajiv Chowk metro station in New Delhi last Sunday, the ambassadors of Gabon and Burkina Faso have written to the Ministry of External Affairs “expressing deep concern” and urging the government to “work in close cooperation with police for a fair investigation”.
Desire Koumba, Gabon’s ambassador to India, confirmed that he and his Burkina Faso counterpart Idriss Raoua Ouedraogo had written to the MEA expressing concern over the incident.
Last Sunday, the three youths — Mapaga (22) and Yohan (22) from Gabon and Guira (20) from Burkina Faso — were nearly lynched by a mob at the Rajiv Chowk metro station in the presence of a policeman. Cornered and assaulted inside a police booth, they escaped with serious injuries on the head and arms. Mapaga was also bitten on the leg while they were being attacked with rods, glass shards, even tables.
Not one of their assailants has been arrested so far though video clips of the attack have gone viral on YouTube. Only a case of rioting, causing hurt and damage to public property has been registered by police.
On Wednesday, the three youths told The Indian Express that there was no truth to reports that they invited the attack by making lewd remarks at a woman on board a metro train.
They said it all began when they noticed three men trying to take their photographs with a mobile phone on board a metro as it was pulling into Rajiv Chowk. Mapaga said he objected.
“I could see the reflection of the mobile phone on the window pane behind them. They were giggling. They claimed they hadn’t taken our photograph. I told them that we do not like being photographed in such manner,” said Mapaga, a BBA student at Sharda University.
“When we were about to alight at Rajiv Chowk, one of them made a crude gesture. He was also making faces. My brother Yohan got angry and asked him why he was troubling us. The three men cornered and pushed him outside, where a police officer was standing,” he said.
There was a scuffle on the platform and the police took all six to a police booth. The three youths said they could not follow the conversation between the three men and the police since they were speaking in Hindi.
“They kept calling us ‘Nigerians, Nigerians’ before the police. I told them we were not Nigerians. By then, a mob had gathered outside the police booth where there was a lone officer. They were tapping the glass panel of the booth, daring us to step out. The officer left the booth and said something in Hindi to the mob. I saw men break into the booth,” said Guira, a programming student at NIIT. He sustained serious injuries on the head and wrists which had to be stitched.
Yohan, a BCA student at Amity, recalled the “nightmare” that followed. He said he bolted the police booth from inside to shut out the mob but they used tables to break the door. “There was no place to escape. Passersby took turns to hit us. The video on YouTube shows men beating us with rods and throwing furniture at us. Some even broke the glass panes of the booth and smashed it on our heads.”
Yohan alleged a policeman pushed him inside the booth when he sought help.
Mapaga said he climbed atop the booth to save himself. He showed bite marks on his leg: “My hand was bleeding and I was being slapped. Someone bit me and I fell to the ground. I joined my hands and told them we were students but the beating continued. When they saw our heads bleeding, they stopped. By then, some four-five policemen reached the booth and formed a cordon to keep the crowd out.”
The three youths were taken to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital for treatment.
“We will think twice before boarding the metro again. Not for the next three months. We face harassment everyday because of the colour of our skin. People laugh, call us ‘Kaalu’ and bad words. We can ignore that but being cornered inside a police booth and beaten mercilessly is unacceptable,” Guira said.
Yohan said: “We came here to study. But we are just about surviving.”
When his comments were sought, Joint Commissioner of Police (New Delhi range) M K Meena said police have registered a case of rioting, causing hurt and damage to public property against unknown persons. He said CCTV footage was being studied to try and identify the assailants.