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Insecurity haunts African students in India after attacks

Most Africans come to India to study but they are wrongly associated with drugs and face retributive attacks

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

Updated: April 10, 2017 10:45 AM GMT
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Insecurity haunts African students in India after attacks

African nationals demonstrate in New Delhi on May 30, 2016 in the wake of a string of attacks on them, especially students, in the national capital and elsewhere. The sporadic attacks, which killed a student On March 29, caused outrage. (Photo by IANS)

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John Jimmy came to India two years ago with a dream to study. With two more years until he completes his technology course, he no longer feels safe to stay in the country due to the recent attacks on African nationals.

Jimmy, who comes from Angola, is cautious to leave his house fearing he might be attacked anytime, anywhere.

"I was planning to stay here but now I just want to go back after completing my studies. I am very disappointed at the way we are being treated here," Jimmy, a Catholic, told ucanews.com.

The fear has been starting to build among Africans in India after a series of attacks against them started when a group of four Nigerian students were beaten at a mall in Greater Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, on March 27 following the death of a 17-year-old local boy.

The locals alleged that the boy died after he was forced to inhale drugs by some Nigerians. All five attackers were arrested.

On March 29, a 25-year-old Kenyan woman was attacked and beaten while travelling in a cab in the same area. A police complaint was filed but no one has been arrested yet.

Jimmy, who was near the mall with his friends when the attack happened on March 27, said that he got a call from one of his friends informing about the attack and asking him to return home.

"Me and two of my friends immediately went back and did not come out for a week. We are very cautious of our surroundings now," he said.

For Pedro Trinidad, a Catholic who is also from Angola, who has been India for the last three years, the attacks are scary.

"I am still very afraid but we have to live with this problem. No choice. I need to be here two more years to complete my studies. I just want to go back," Trinidad told ucanews.com.

Father Savarimuthu Sankar, spokesperson for Delhi Archdiocese, has condemned the racial attack on Africans. He said the archdiocese does not have an official cell to help the Africans in case of emergencies, but "we provide them help in terms of legal, financial and spiritual" whenever they are in need,” he said.

Also concerned over the rising attacks on its nationals, African envoys to India termed the incidents "xenophobic" and demanded a probe by the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

In a press release issued by the office of the dean of the African Group Head of Missions, they said, "no known, sufficient and visible deterring measures were taken by the Government of India" to stop such incidents.

However, the Indian government rejected the allegations, saying that the attacks should not be linked to racism.

"You can’t say our steps are inadequate. We are committed to ensuring the security of all foreigners in India," Sushma Swaraj, federal minister for external affairs, said while speaking in the lower house of the parliament on April 5.

Noting that there are misconceptions about Africans in India, Jimmy said that "people here do not know at all about Africa, its geography or culture. They think we are all the same."

"If one of us has done something wrong. Everyone is held responsible. This is not a fair way of doing justice," he added.

Jimmy said they also face discrimination day-to-day.

"People look at us in a strange way. They make fun of us or shout at us. We just ignore them. We have to," he said.

According to 2015 data by the Human Resource Development Ministry, there were over 2,000 Sudanese and over 1900 Nigerian students studying in the country. However, all African nationals have time and again been accused of involvement in illegal activities like drugs.

In May last year, a Congolese was beaten to death in Delhi after an argument over hiring an auto rickshaw. Following this, at least seven Africans, including four women, were assaulted in the national capital.

In the same month, a Nigerian student was assaulted for parking in southern Indian city of Hyderabad and, in January 2016, a Tanzanian woman was stripped and molested in southern Indian city of Bangaluru.

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