That’s what India’s foreign affairs minister is calling a rash of race riots targeting African students near Delhi this week that left two men hospitalized and a Kenyan woman badly beaten.
According to police, nearly 600 people were involved in mob violence in the satellite city of Noida on Monday, March 27, located just east of Delhi. India has seen a rise in race-based attacks in recent years as racist attitudes and seething resentment toward Africans, many of whom study at Indian universities, have reached a fever pitch. National media also have attributed cultural differences and the involvement of a small portion of Africans in the Delhi drug trade to the recent attacks.
Monday’s riot was sparked by the death of 19-year-old Manish Khari, who reportedly died of a heart attack brought on by a drug overdose, The Guardian reported. Indian locals, including Khari’s family, pointed the finger at Nigerians living in the area, who they said sold the young man drugs. Five Nigerian men were arrested in the case but released the very next day.
The situation turned violent as protesters demanding justice in the case clashed with African student groups at a demonstration Sunday and a candlelight vigil calling for the prosecution of the five men resulted in a mob attack against four Nigerians Monday evening.
Amalcima Amarawa and his sibling, who were among those attacked, told the Indian Express they ran and hid in a nearby shopping mall where a group of at least 10 Indians found them and beat them. The savage attack was recorded on a smartphone and broadcast across the country on Tuesday.
Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has since denounced the violence, calling on Yogi Adityanath, the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, to investigate the matter.
“The government is committed to ensuring safety and security of all foreigners in India,” Swaraj said. “People from Africa, including students and youths, remain our valued partners.”
The Nigerian government summoned the Indian ambassador to its capital city of Abuja on Wednesday, March 29, following the mob attack, Al Jazeera reported. Olushola Enikanolaiye, secretary at the ministry of foreign affairs, pushed Indian officials to immediately arrest and prosecute those behind the violence.
“This is not the first time this would happen. Nigerians have suffered similar attacks in the past,” Enikanolaiye told the News Agency of Nigeria. “So, what we will like to see on this occasion is that the perpetrator should be arrested. We want to see diligent prosecution so that it would serve as a deterrent to those who think they can take laws into their hands and harass students who are going about their studies.”
A Nigerian female student also was reportedly attacked on Wednesday, while a Kenyan woman was forcefully dragged out of a rickshaw and beaten by a mob, according to Al Jazeera. So far, Indian police said they’ve arrested five people and booked over 1,000 suspects in connection with the recent attacks. Consular officials indicate there are close to 50,000 Nigerians living and studying in India.
These violent attacks against Blacks overseas come at a time of increased racial tensions here in America. As the nation continues to grapple with the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police and the recent atrocities carried out by white nationalists emboldened by the election of President Donald Trump, tolerance between Blacks and whites is seemingly unraveling at a rapid pace.
For African-Americans, the faces behind anti-Black crimes are usually white. Self-professed white nationalist Dylann Roof gunned down nine Black churchgoers in Charleston two years ago in hopes of starting a “race war.” Just last week, an Army veteran with links to a white supremacist group took a two-hour bus ride to NYC with the intention of targeting and killing African-American men. A brief trip through history will also show that violence and attacks against Blacks are more often than not committed by people of European descent, from the genocide of the Herero and Namaqua people of Namibia in 1904 to the 1963 church bombing that took the lives of four little Black girls in Birmingham, Ala.
Within the Indian context racial and caste conflict is also deeply embedded in the culture. The Hinduism caste system regulates the darker skinned Dalits, about 160 million to the lowest level of economic and social mobility at birth. Dalits are outside the main caste divisions in India: the priestly caste; the warrior caste; the merchants; and finally, the laborers. The Dalits are sometimes referred to as the “untouchables” because their status regulates them to menial jobs that included handling human waste and animal carcasses. They face constant life threatening discrimination. This prejudice and racism has been quickly transferred on to African immigrants.
Just last year, a 29-year-old Congolese man was stoned to death by a group of locals in south Delhi, reportedly following an argument over a taxi. In Bangalore, another hub for African students, a mob stripped and assaulted a 21-year-old woman from Tanzania in retaliation for a Sudanese student who accidentally ran over a local woman, The Guardian reported.
“African students come to India dreaming of obtaining quality education in a diverse country. However, many end up bitterly disappointed when they face abuse and harassment,” editors at the Times of India wrote. “Widespread ignorance exists about African culture and history as exemplified by the usage of terms such as ‘Nigerian’ and ‘habshi’ for African visitors. For such racism to exist in the 21st century is unconscionable.
“Hence, community-level programs need to be initiated to bring locals and Africans together and foster greater understanding,” they concluded.
In the wake of Monday’s mob attack, all African students have since been advised to stay indoors while Indian officials work with the Nigerian high commission over the incident.