Congolese man killed in India “in row over rickshaw”


Olivier Masonda left the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012 to study in India, and he had recently become a French teacher in New Delhi. But the life that the 23-year-old was building for himself came to an abrupt end on May 20, when he was beaten to death by locals.

The fight occurred in Vasant Kunj, a neighbourhood in a southern suburb of New Delhi. According to the Indian police, who saw surveillance footage, Masonda was trying to hail an auto-rickshaw when he got into an argument with three Indian men.

According to reports in the Indian press, which cited the police, Masonda and the men wanted to rent the same rickshaw. Masonda was surrounded and violently beaten by the three men, one of whom delivered the fatal blow by hitting his head with a large rock.

But was this a racist attack? The Indian police says it is investigating this possibility. After arresting two of the men involved in the fight, they are searching for the third, as well as for the auto-rickshaw driver who witnessed the scene: “His version will help us find if any racist remark was passed by the accused,” a senior police officer told The Hindu newspaper.

In several different reports broadcast on Indian television, this stone was described as being the weapon used to kill Masonda.

‘Taking a rickshaw at night is really dangerous for an African”

Pezo Nsakala Rody is originally from the DR Congo, like Masonda. He is currently studying management in New Delhi. He was part of a delegation of Congolese students who went straight to the place where Masonda died on Friday night as soon as the incident was reported. He told FRANCE 24 what he saw.

We didn’t see Olivier’s body, because the police had already taken it away. There were lots of policemen there and we saw a huge rock on the ground, next to a pool of blood. We didn’t see Olivier’s body until the next day, when we went to the morgue at a nearby hospital. His skull was fractured and he had many other wounds as well.

For now, the circumstances around his death are still a mystery. We do know, however, that he died while trying to hail an auto-rickshaw.

For an African, it’s really dangerous to take an auto-rickshaw at night, like Olivier did. I have frequently encountered rickshaw drivers who won’t take us Africans as passengers. Sometimes, people even shout out insults like “in the jungle, no one takes a taxi!” And if you get angry about it, passersby almost never come to your defence.

When contacted by FRANCE 24, the president of the Association of African Students in India (AASI), Abdou Brahim, said that he didn’t have enough information about the incident to comment on it. However, he did say that there are “frequent” attacks on Africans and that the situation is distressing.

Last month, our journalist Gaelle Faure went to the city of Bangalore in southern India to investigate growing reports of violence against African students for our show 'Observers Direct'. There, she met numerous African students who said they had experienced both racism and violence.