Mob attacks African students in Indian metro

Videos have emerged of three African students nearly being lynched in the New Delhi metro. Accused of sexual harassment, they were beat with chairs and sticks as a mob screamed at them.


An African student tries to find refuge from an angry mob on the top of a police station inside the New Delhi metro. Screen grab from the video below. 

Videos have emerged of three African students nearly being lynched in the New Delhi metro. Accused of sexual harassment, they were beat with chairs and sticks as a mob screamed at them.

Sunday afternoon, a fight broke out between three African men – two from Gabon and one from Burkina Faso – and Indian metro users at New Delhi’s Rajiv Chowk station. Several witnesses filmed the scene on their mobile phones.

One of the videos filmed by metro users and posted to YouTube. Another similar video can be seen here

In the beginning of the above video, the three African university students can be seen taking refuge inside a small, glass-paneled police station. Their attackers try to force open the door, while others watching the scene applaud them and scream insults at the students.

The three African men end up climbing on the top of the station to get as far away from the mob as possible. But despite the presence of police officers who try to protect them, the attackers still manage to beat them, some of them with sticks (see photo below).

After a few minutes of confusion, during which you can hear the sound of glass shattering and screams, more police officers arrive on the scene to disperse the crowd. A few people yell the nationalist chant “Bharat mata ki jai”, which in Hindi means “Glory to our mother India”.

Attackers throw a chair at the students.

The three students had traveled to New Delhi to attend a friend’s birthday party, and were on their way back to the suburb where they reside, Noida, the next day. According to Indian police, a woman in the metro accused them of sexually harassing her, which set off the crowd’s wrath. According to the Times of India, this woman disappeared without lodging a complaint with the police.

At the end of the video, one of the students is shirtless. According to our Observer, his clothes were ripped by his attackers. 

"Indians took photos of them as if they were monkeys in a zoo"

Wesley (not his real name) is a friend of the three men. He spoke to them following the incident; they’re currently being assisted by their respective embassies.

We celebrated our friends’ birthday Saturday night. These three students slept in central New Delhi, since they lived a bit too far to go home that night. When they took the metro to head home on Sunday around 5pm, they were completely sober [Editor’s Note: The police and the ‘Times of India’ said the men were drunk].

Once inside the metro, some Indians starting taking photos of them as if they were monkeys in a zoo, and laughed at them. Unfortunately, this type of provocation happens once in a while, and Africans who are subjected to it usually try to ignore it. This time, however, my three friends replied, in Hindi. They exchanged words but it didn’t go any further than that. It’s only later, when they disembarked at Rajiv Chowk station to switch to another train, that people started yelling at them, accusing them of having sexually harassed a young woman [Editor’s Note: the students claim this is completely false]. Insults started flying on both sides, and it all went downhill from there.

What’s really shocking is to see that the policemen on the scene didn’t really try to defend my friends, and let the crowd hurt them. On one of the videos posted online, you can even see a policeman laughing. Thankfully, a few metro users tried to get in between my friends and the attackers, which bought some time before the police backup arrived and saved them. If it had lasted any longer, things could have been much worse: two of my friends had wounds on their heads, and one of them had to have his arm operated on.


After trying to intervene to disperse the crowd, several policemen decided to step away from the scene and wait at a distance for backup. One of them can be seen smiling. 


I don’t want to generalize, but it’s true that Africans regularly face racist attitudes in the metro here. In general, we avoid taking the metro alone, since we know the slightest incident can blow up.

Gabon’s ambassador to India: “Our compatriots were victims of a xenophobic atmosphere”

After being contacted by the embassies of Gabon and of Burkina Faso, New Delhi police announced that they would open an investigation into the incident. They are trying to identify the attackers thanks to surveillance footage. Gabon’s ambassador to India, Désiré Koumba, told FRANCE 24 that his “young compatriots were victims of the xenophobic atmosphere that currently prevails in India”. Though he did not wish to comment on the causes of the incident, he said he believes that it is “unacceptable” to physically attack foreigners “regardless of what they have been accused of”.

In January, New Delhi authorities embarked on a massive operation in Khirki, a neighbourhood in the south of the capital. They did identity checks on Africans and deported those without valid papers. At the time, a minister called Nigerians living in India a “cancer” on the country, before apologising for his words.

There have been a number of racist incidents involving Sub-Saharan Africans recently. in June 2013, Indian police detained 21 Congolese students after a fight provoked by Indian men in the country’s north. A few months later, in October, a Nigerian suspected of being involved in drug trafficking was found dead in Goa; several signs were posted in the city that said “Say no to Nigerians, say no to drugs.”

Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Alexandre Capron (@alexcapron).