Shocked Africans try to grapple with racist attacks

Vishal Narayan

New Delhi, March 30 (IANS) The vicious attacks on Africans in Greater Noida are a reminder of the palpable hatred, which many of us still harbour for the 'blacks' and which the lynching mob betrayed at the first opportunity.

The incident has not only struck a mortal blow in the hearts of Africans but also a sense of disbelief as they try to grapple with the idea that such militant racism could exist in the 21st century in a country which was in the forefront of the global anti-racism struggle.

"This is a very barbaric thing to do and this is not the first time something like this has happened. A few years back (in 2012), another black man was killed in Jalandhar, he too was brutally lynched by a mob.

"It's good that I didn't take admission there (Lovely Public University, where the man beaten earlier studied). "I even had a scholarship for that place but I chose to come here," a national of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Clovis, who is doing his Ph.D in Chemistry from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, told IANS.

Coming from a war-torn region himself, Clovis said he has seen many a lynch-mob among his own people, and that he doesn't want any more of it.

The current spate of attacks has filled him with anger and frustration, he said and added that being a black man, it is not possible for him to even go to the place and inquire about the well-being of his own people.

"I am very upset. I have not gone out of the campus since the attacks... What is our fault? We are not here to do business, we are not stealing your job or money. We will go back once our courses are over...

"What if the same thing starts happening to Indians in other places...in Africa, where so many of them live!" he said and added that the episode does not bode well for the Indians living in Africa.

Another person from Kenya, a student of Environmental Sciences, said that he feared for his life after such open violence.

"I fear for my life, I have not gone out of the campus after the incident and have also received advice from the African students association not to venture out for a few days... I am shocked to hear that such attacks were carried out purely on the basis of rumours.. It's all about mentality," he told IANS.

Anthia of Zimbabwe similarly expressed disbelief and shock and wondered whether such acts of animosity can be organised so quickly and only on the basis of hearsay.

"As far as I know, the accusations are yet to be substantiated. There must be a feeling of rancour gathering for a long time against blacks, otherwise these attacks couldn't have been carried out," the JNU student said.

Having been in India for only two months, she said she hasn't faced any gross act of racism yet. But also confided that she is treated very differently at times and remembered being handled terribly at the hands of a hairdresser, who became very "frustrated" with her hair.

The attack on a Nigerian student took place on Monday night in Greater Noida, some 40 km from the Indian capital, following protests over the death of a Class 12 student of a residential colony there due to a drug overdose.

There were also reports which suggested that rumours of "cannibalism" were also spread to instigate the mob.

Another Nigerian, a student of JNU, who has been living in the national capital for the last one month, said that Indians in perpetrating violence on his compatriots have betrayed the trust between the two countries and may become a cause of "coolness" in future.

"How can people, who are treated as gods in my country, commit such an act," Edewale, a student of Global Studies Program, who is here for just one semester, told IANS.

"In Nigeria, Indians are a very well respected lot..but here the reality is a bit different," he added ruefully.

(Vishal Narayan can be reached at vishal.n@ians.in)

--IANS

vn/nir/bg