Uhuru-Spirit News


April 04, 2017 | Uhuruspirit

African students at a demonstration against racist attacks in Hyderabad on 6 February 2016.© AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM

India rejected on Monday (April 3rd) the accusation by diplomats from 43 African countries that it has not done enough to put an end to racist attacks against young African students in that country.

In a rare communiqué, the African ambassadors are worried that the Indian government has not, in the face of the violence, taken "sufficient deterrent measures". New Delhi has replied that the accusations are "regrettable" and that investigations into the recent attacks were on course.

The two attacks this week in Greater Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, were said to have been fueled by unsubstantiated reports that African students had sold drugs to a young Indian student who later died of an overdose.

Abhinandan Singh, additional superintendent of police in Greater Noida, said in a telephone interview that there was no evidence that any African students were involved in the death of the young Indian man, or even that he died of a drug overdose.

Mr. Singh said a candlelight vigil for the man was being held Monday night when troublemakers in the crowd convinced the mourners to charge into the Ansal Plaza mall and attack the Nigerian students someone had spotted inside. In another attack, a young Kenyan woman was pulled from a taxi by a group of men and beaten.

On Friday, some 43 African diplomats drew up a press release issued on Monday, condemning severely racist attacks in the country and threatening New Delhi to take the case to international bodies. They accuse the Indian authorities of not "sufficiently condemning" the attacks. "We consider that recent attacks on Africans are xenophobic and racist by nature, and that the Indian government has not condemned them sufficiently."

The disapproval of the group of African ambassadors in India was strong and pointed to a recurring problem: the Indian authorities refused to consider frequent attacks on Africans as racist acts and therefore to act to prevent their repetition.

Last’s incidents were not the first of its kind. A young Congolese was even killed in the street last year after a quarrel with a rickshaw driver.

But New Delhi's reaction was anything but vigorous. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs lamented that the violence was described as "xenophobic" and "racial" by diplomats before the police investigation was concluded. The ministry recalled that it reacted swiftly by describing the beating of Nigerians as "unacceptable". According to the statement, Indian institutions will be sufficient to deal with crimes described as "aberrations".

New Delhi is trying to increase economic exchanges with these emerging African countries and has even offered them 50,000 scholarships. But the ambassadors have had enough of the good words and for the first time they said they were ready to take the case to the UN Human Rights Council.

Presidoe Okujuna, a Nigerian student, is the spokesperson for the Association of African Students in Delhi. According to him, diplomats are right to denounce the "racial" nature of the assaults that Africans regularly face.

"The government is not forthright or honest when it comes to this issue, and does not really take it seriously. That is why these attacks continue,” he said. “It's never stopped! And it will continue if the government does not do something to stop it, and if it does not take the bull by the horns, because it is deeply rooted in the caste system. Racism manifests itself in so many ways in India! It's never stopped! I have seen it again today. I was waiting for the bus to go to university and an Indian who saw me made very, very insulting remarks before laughing. That is what we live every day. We are considered not quite human."

Increasing numbers of students from Africa have come to India to study in recent years, with several thousand of them in the Delhi area. The students attacked by the mob were enrolled at Noida International University.

As their numbers have increased, rights advocates say, so have the attacks. In 2014, a mob beat three African students at a New Delhi train station. Last year, a mob attacked and stripped a 21-year-old Tanzanian woman in north Bangalore whose car showed up at an accident scene shortly after a Sudanese man had run over a local woman.

“I am increasingly worried about the ease with which mobs get formed and act very irrationally and cruelly in a short time period on the basis of no information,” said Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of The Wire, an online news site.

Mr. Varadarajan said the attacks on Africans served as a warning to Indians that their country was riddled with some of the very same racism that they had suffered from in the West.

“The fact is the kind of ignorance and irrational fears you see would rival the feelings and fears of the worst racists in the West,” he said.

The police, having reviewed closed circuit television footage of the mall violence, had identified 44 people involved in the attack, Mr. Singh said, and had arrested five of them, ages 22 to 35.

In the video footage, several men can be seen hitting the two Nigerians with stools and garbage cans. Mr. Singh said the attack stopped only when police officers showed up.

One of the injured students had been released from the hospital, while the other was still being treated, though his condition was said to be improving. The young woman had also been discharged from the hospital, but she was “still in total shock,” Mr. Singh said.

But mob violence is not restricted to Africans. In 2015, a crowd of Hindus attacked and killed a Muslim man near Delhi after a rumor circulated that he had cow meat in his refrigerator. Hindus consider the cow a holy animal, while Muslims, who do not, may eat beef.

Recently, the angry relatives of patients who died in public hospitals in the Mumbai area have beaten up doctors they accused of malpractice, prompting a physicians’ strike.

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