Afghans and Africans are two prominent migrant communities in Khirkee. We heard rumours that the Africans are beginning to leave the area because of intolerance and non-acceptance by the locals. We decided to inquire from this group how they negotiate public spaces in Khirkee and Hauz Rani.
We visited the lane behind the wall painted on with the masked Buddha. We passed a big tree that seemed to have turned into a mandir (temple), with many small idols of deities around it, and flower garlands. The lanes are very narrow and like a chaotic maze, suddenly opening, abruptly disconnecting or dead-ending. We started somewhere and end up anywhere and nowhere. Sometimes it seemed we were entering someone’s house but that too was part of the lane. The upper balconies were touching one another. Most nameplates on the homes read CHAUHAN. No Africans were visible.
After some time we came out of that area and sat for a while on a bench under a tree in the park near a mechanic’s shop. It was mid-afternoon, quiet, and very hot. Very few people were on the road, only those who had good reasons to be outside.
We returned to the lanes and found a saloon run by Africans. We told them about our project and asked about their experience of Khirkee and Hauz Rani. They talked about India in general, not just the locality. Overall, they have had a very bad experience. One man spoke with a lot of anger because his brother had been shot in Jalandhar. Indians discriminate against the Africans continually, not wanting to talk to them, calling them habshi and by other derogatory names. In fact, the Africans in the saloon were quite shocked that we wanted to talk to them. They said to us, you can feel now what we feel all the time, see how people are staring at you because you are talking to us. It was true, people were staring. When I responded that only their community was discriminated against, it was the same for all the migrants here, they commented sarcastically, yeah! India is good! Acchha hai! Though we are all from different countries in Africa, we live here like brothers. But Indians treat badly.