Attacks on Africans: India must get rid of its prejudices

The restive crowd in Greater Noida must not forget there are more than 2 lakh Indians living in Nigeria alone.

 |  4-minute read |   29-03-2017
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Reports of Nigerians being attacked by a violent mob in Greater Noida are quite disturbing. Needless to underscore that any form of violence is unacceptable. And an organised violence on foreign students, mercilessly thrashing them at a public place is worse and deserves condemnation in the strictest possible terms.

From the visual images, it looked like the violence unleashed on the Nigerian students was nothing but racial attack. The crowd that resorted to violence must have had been provoked by the rumours doing the rounds following the death of a 17-year-old local resident who died due to drug overdose. Local residents have alleged that a few Nigerian students living in the locality supplied the drugs and they were the reason behind the boy's death.

We don't know if the Nigerian students did or didn't supply the drugs which killed the boy, but it seems they and others like them are more vulnerable to attack because of their skin colour and "reputation", which incidentally is not so good in the eyes of non-Africans or Indians.

nigeria_032917040106.jpg Such incidents not only bring shame to the country but also affect the Indo-Nigerian bilateral ties.

Some Indians are still so prejudiced that they call Africans as "habshis" and "negroes". Also, the fact that Africans are a minority here and often fall prey to the majority hooligans.

But that's true for any kind of minority in India. Even students from the northeastern states could not escape violence from the majority across metropolitan cities, especially in Delhi and Bengaluru in the past .

In the latest episode, the police did act with alacrity and tried to save the Nigerians from the violent mob, but the public mood was different. The rumours led to frayed tempers. Now, it's up to the Ministry of External Affairs and the government of Uttar Pradesh to contain the situation. Union minister Sushma Swaraj has spoken, rather swiftly, to UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath seeking his good offices and an impartial investigation into the incident besides protection for Nigerians living here.

Sadly, such incidents not only bring shame to the country but also affect the Indo-Nigerian bilateral ties. In addition to that, other African countries which look up to India as a friend and ally, might revise their policy or approach towards India.

In other words, the entire Africa along with African Union (AU) and Organisation of African Union (OAU) may alter their stand if things are not brought under control soon. After all, such acts of violence against Africans have come to the fore in the past as well in some areas of Delhi. Most importantly, the restive crowd in Greater Noida must not forget that there are more than 2 lakh Indians living in Lagos and other parts of Nigeria.

If Nigerians retaliate on their home turf and target Indians, the consequences would be far more frightening. In an age where news travels so fast, especially on social media, any kind of flare-up and backlash is possible. Indians must understand that they need to exercise caution and restraint.

Under the given circumstances, the New Delhi-based counsellor at the Nigerian High Commission must spend more time in Greater Noida , at least for the time being , talking to the aggrieved students and counselling them to maintain calm. The counsellor must also liaise with the district authorities to act as a mediator for a rapprochement.

There is a detachment of the local intelligence unit (LIU) in the district which is also expected to monitor foreigners and their activities. Hopefully, as part of their charter, their officials are keeping a tab on drug trafficking too. This is more imperative as drug menace is not just confined to one race or group of people. The LIU must step up its vigil to ensure that this menace doesn't spread.

If there is adequate and unobtrusive surveillance on elements, both foreigners and locals, matters could be tackled before they assume violent proportions as witnessed in the last couple of days.

A permanent solution must be worked out to prevent recurrence of such unpleasant incidents in future.

Also read: I’ve lived with Africans and this is what I learnt

Writer

Shantanu Mukharji Shantanu Mukharji @shantanu2818

The author is a retired IPS officer who has held key positions in the Government of India handling sensitive security issues within and outside India.

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