Racist attack on African students in Greater Noida is both sad and hypocritical

As black students share clips of violence, placards saying ‘Nigerian-free Noida’ have been reportedly seen.

 |  6-minute read |   28-03-2017
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It’s not new a phenomenon at all, but it sure has got intensified like never before. Racist violence against African students in India added a new chapter to its long and inglorious history of cultural sickness when residents of the National Security Guards Black Cat Enclave barged into a flat of five Nigerian students in search of a missing boy, not before accusing them of eating human meat!

As if cannibalism were a peculiar African trait (whatever that means, since we’re referring to not a country but the second-largest continent on Earth), the assaults that followed since then, with video clips of African students getting beaten up in a Greater Noida mall taking the social media by storm, have only vitiated the atmosphere of poisonous India-brand racism.

In Greater Noida’s busy locality Pari Chowk, many gathered to protest against the Class 12 student, Manish Khari, who died under mysterious circumstances, but actually, it would seem, to rage against the presence of African students in the area.

Exactly as meat shops in Uttar Pradesh are being targeted as the newly-crowned chief minister flip-flops on the issue of slaughterhouses in his state, as “Anti-Romeo squads” are unleashed on unsuspecting couples enjoying a bit of the open road, the latest episode of rank violence has jolted the entire country out of its normally high-octane communal complacence.

It’s time to acknowledge that bigotry in India isn’t limited to religion: in fact, it gets amplified and finds a collective sanction when it comes to attacking black people living in India.

Last year, black women students in Bangalore were publicly assaulted, after being forced out of her car. In January 2014, the then AAP law minister of Delhi Somnath Bharti led a midnight mob against Nigerian residents of Khirki Extension citing law and order problem.

However, the clips of Indian men mercilessly kicking and assaulting African students have brought home the fact of everyday racism simmering in India, which a tiny poke can bring over to the surface.

It is so bad that the Association of African Students in India put up a Facebook advisory asking its members to not go out if they are residing in the Greater Noida area.

“You are advised to not attend any lecture until we are granted maximum security,” the post said.

Even though Union minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj has asked UP CM Yogi Adityanath to submit a report, and has assured a “fair and impartial investigation into the unfortunate incident”, we need to understand that the tightrope between official niceties and rabid racism on the streets is something that the respective BJP governments – both at the Centre and at the state level – are experts at walking.

India houses a number of African nationals – from Nigerians, to Somalis, to Ugandans, Cameroonians, and many others, who come to study and often work in this country. India’s relatively cheap and Anglophone higher education system is a lure for many black students to pursue their university dreams here.

But the daily insidious or overt racism that Africans face in India is really without a parallel. That’s because in the West, both black and brown bodies are equally policed, and therefore solidarities exist across sections and communities.

For example, when the Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibholta was gunned down in Kansas City, Texas in after Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, solidarity from Black Lives Matter movement was overwhelming.

It is another matter than non-resident Indians in the West are themselves conduits of racism – both receiving and perpetuating it with élan – as the self-centred urge to turn themselves into “model minorities” denudes the Indian American community of radical political edge oftentimes.

That said, what happened in Greater Noida is unpardonable, but perhaps not unexpected. In a simmering cauldron of communal tensions, when Muslims, particularly Muslim meat-packers selling buffalo meat, are hounded and shuttered down, the slightest of tangential movement leads the majority bigots to assault the other meat-eating minority community within them – the blacks.

Also read - Accusing Nigerians of cannibalism exposes the ugly Indian truth

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