Emotions were flared by Floyd’s killing but what about African victims of racism in India

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After the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, many turned to Twitter and Facebook to show their anger and dismay against the killing. Tensions have been rising in the U.S. with violence ravaging several cities. A clarion call for ending racism has been taken in the last few days. But what about the racism against blacks back at home.

India has a dreadful history of violence against Africans. There are approximately 60,000 Africans of different nationalities residing in India. Many have faced racial discrimination at some point in time during their stay in the country. On the streets, Africans are met with terms like “Hey Bandar”, “Hey Kalu”, “Hey habshi”. One recurrent characterization of Africans is connected with cannibalism and people snatching. There were many incidents in which Africans were thrashed and beaten on the pretext of cannibalism and snatching people. Not only Africans are classified as criminals but are also depicted as drug-peddlers and burglars.

According to the Association of African Students in India (AASI), about 25,000 Africans study in Indian universities, drawn by their high academic standards, low fees, and the use of English language as the medium of instruction. Nigeria sends the highest numbers to India, followed by Sudan and Kenya.

Here are ten incidents when black Africans were met with discrimination and violence in India

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  • In 2016 a young Congolese teacher was killed by a group of men in New Delhi. Three men pelted M. T. Olivia, 23, with stones and bricks after chasing him, following an altercation.
  • Back in 2017, a 24-year-old Imran Uba, who comes from Kano in northern Nigeria and studies at Noida International University was accused of cannibalism before there had even been a death. A mob already burst into the home of five Nigerian students and reportedly searched their refrigerator for a man who was assumed to be strangled by the students. The Nigerians, they alleged, had killed and eaten the local man.
  • In 2014, a New Delhi mob cornered and thrashed three students from Gabon and Burkina Faso in a metro station, accusing them of harassing Indian women. 20-year-old Guira, an NIIT student of computer science from West African country Burkina Faso, who along with his two friends, Mapaga (22) and Yohan (22), from Gabon was attacked by a lynch mob at Rajiv Chowk metro station.
Video of a mob thrashing three students at Rajeev Chowk metro station as the police remain, mere onlookers.
  • A mob in 2016 in Bangalore dragged a Tanzanian student from her vehicle, stripped her, and set her car alight after a Sudanese man she had never met was implicated in a fatal road accident. Two police officers who were at the scene were suspended for failing to stop the mob from attacking the foreigners and for not registering a complaint.
  • Delhi’s law minister was accused in 2014 of harassing African women after he led a vigilante mob through an area of the capital, accusing the women of being prostitutes. A student at Sharda University’s, Adetutu Deborah Aina, a 33-year-old Nigerian lawyer, and a Ph.D. student said “They think that all Africans are prostitute”.  
  • In 2013, a Nigerian national was killed by a mob in western Goa state, with local politicians later comparing Africans to ‘cancer’.
  • In 2019, Arsenal supporter and Bollywood actor Esha Gupta uploaded a screenshot of a text conversation on Instagram stories. She and a friend both laughed at footballer Alex Iwobi, claiming that “evolution stopped for him”, referring to him as “gorilla-faced”, and a “neanderthal”
  • On the night of 22 May 2016, Masonda Ketada Olivier, a Congolese national died after being assaulted in the Indian city of New Delhi. Olivier had been in New Delhi as a student and also taught French in a language school in the city. After an argument over an auto-rickshaw, he got into an altercation with some local men, who then assaulted Olivier. 
  • Five Nigerian students were attacked by crowds, while another was beaten by a mob inside a shopping mall in 2017.  The violence was prompted by the death of a local teenager due to a drug overdose. His parents blame Nigerian students for giving him the drugs.
  • The heads of African diplomatic missions in India issued a blistering rebuke to the Ministry of External Affairs due to the rising racial attacks against Africans. They had reviewed historic incidents of violence against Africans and concluded that “no known sufficient and visible deterring measures were taken by the government of India”.

The African Heads of Mission have incessantly pointed out that the Indian authorities’ response has been inadequate while Africans are beaten and killed on the streets. Many have called for an investigation by the UN Human Rights Council. To date, there has been no official recognition of racism in India. Governments have been lax about the issue and there is no mechanism to deal with this. Not to mention the recognition of racism and discrimination against Dalits that have also been denied by the authorities.

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