Even as racist attitudes towards Africans hit national scanners in the past week, an attack on a Nigerian national in Hyderabad showed the pervasive presence of such attitudes, as an argument about parking space quickly escalated into physical violence.
While initial reports of the incident painted the attack as resulting from a long-running tiff about parking, Khazeem Damilola, the injured Nigerian claims that the attack and the vehemence with which his attacker was supported by bystanders came completely as a surprise.
A week after the incident, Khazeem is still shaken by it. â€śI know all Indians are not the same, but we often face such discrimination from some Indians,â€ť he says, adding that he does not feel safe living in the area where the attack took place.
On May 25, at around noon, 26-year-old Khazeem, who is pursuing a bachelorâ€™s degree in Computer Science at Nizam College, parked his car outside an apartment near his residence at Zehara Nagar, Banjara hills road No. 10 in Hyderabad.
According to Khazeem, a person named Mohammad Ghafoor then came out of the apartment and asked him to park his car somewhere else, threatening him when Khazeem replied that he could not find any other parking space.
â€śInstead of showing me a place to park my car, he threatened to destroy my car if I did not park it somewhere else. I was surprised at the noise and responses he was giving, so I decided to call my landlord to interpret for me since he could not speak English properly,â€ť says Khazeem.
At that point, Khazeem says, the encounter began to turn physical. â€śThe man pulled me back and pushed me. He also asked my address and then I pushed him back. He was already creating a big scene with his local dialect, I think it was in Telugu.â€ť As the argument escalated further, says Khazim, Ghafoor picked up an iron rod, and Khazeem also picked up another rod in defence. After a further minute of heated arguments, Khazeem says he dropped his iron rod but suddenly, two others joined the argument and attacked him, backed by more people.
Khazeem says, â€śAll I could do was try to defend myself since I knew I was outnumbered. With no option, I ran away for protection, they followed me with so much noise in Telugu. Then an Indian guy came from the blue with an iron rod and hit my head. I lost consciousness for some seconds, but still summoned up the strength to try to escape, when others hit my leg with a wooden rodâ€™â€™.
â€śFinally, Mohammad Ghafoor who caused the scene at the beginning took his bike and hit my leg with it. A policeman later came. He was also laughing at me and he did nothing but was asking some questions,â€ť Khazeem said.