The Big Story: Racist attack
After Donald Trump took over as US president in December, a spate of racist attacks in America justifiably caused concern across the world. On February 22, an Indian engineer, Srinivas Kuchibotla, was shot dead in a bar in Kansas. “Get out of my country,” the murderer shouted as he opened fire.
India was stunned. The media wondered if the “Indian American dream” was coming to an end as white supremacists began to assert themselves under Trump presidency.
On Saturday, some Indians showed that they could be as racist and violent as some people in the US. After a teenager in Greater Noida died of a suspected drug overdose on the weekend, a mob wasted no time in fixing the blame on African students who live in the area. Since Saturday, several Nigerian students have been brutally attacked by mobs claiming that people from that Western African country are disproportionately involved in the narcotics trade. Bizarrely, a rumour got around that Nigerian students were cannibals who had eaten up the teenager. Protestors took to the streets demanding that all Africans leave the Greater Noida area, a hub for private universities that draw students from several parts of the developing world. The violence unfolded a mere 40 km from the national capital.
An estimated 50,000 Nigerians live in India. In 2015, the Ministry of Human Resource Development said that Nigerians are the fifth-largest group of foreign students in India, one place behind students from Sudan. People from Africa also constitutes a significant chunk of India’s medical tourists. Many have complained of facing racist taunts in the streets. There have also been other attacks on Africans in recent months, in Bangalore, Delhi and other places. The situation got so intense last May that they caused a diplomatic crisis: African envoys threatened to boycott the Africa Day celebrations of the Indian government last week
It is India’s duty to assure the safety of all visitors and long-term residents in this country, just as it expects the US, Europe and other governments to protect Indians and people of Indian origin in those countries. Failing to do so would not violate the United Nations Declaration on the Human Rights of Individuals Who are not Nationals of the Country in which They Live, it would be violate India’s ancient cultural tradition that maintains that “a guest like like God” – Atithi Devo Bhava.
The police have made a good start by arresting seven people for attacking the Nigerians and booking around 600 people rioting. But senior officers must investigate why five Nigerians were booked on the weekend for murdering the teenager, an action that catalysed the mobs. Sustained vigilance is necessary to allay the fears of the African community in India. But India must also acknowledge that it has a strong racist streak and launch concerted campaigns against colour prejudice and difference to overcome this.
The Big Scroll
Abhishek Dey speaks to Nigerian students who were attacked by mobs in Noida.
- In The Hindu, RK Raghavan writes on the importance of overhauling the police system in Uttar Pradesh, which does not have an encouraging human rights record.
- Dhrubo Jyoti in the Hindustan Times explains how Bollywood and popular culture have entrenched racism in India.
- Rahul Matthan in the Mint writes on why consent need not be the cornerstone of a robust privacy framework.
Arunabh Saikia on why Tripura is the next target for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the North East.
“Over the last year, the BJP has made rapid advances in the North East, a region that has historically been outside its fold. In 2016, the party swept Assam, defeating Tarun Gogoi’s Congress government, in power for 15 years. In December, it formed the government in Arunachal Pradesh after 33 Peoples’ Party of Arunachal MLAs, led by Chief Minister Pema Khandu, joined the BJP. This month, after the Assembly elections, it cobbled together a majority in Manipur, ousting another three-term Congress chief minister, Okram Ibobi Singh.
The BJP seems to view Tripura as the next stop. ‘None of the parties have played the role of the Opposition in Tripura,’ said Deb. ‘We have simply occupied that vacuum.’”
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