India’s Brahmin-dominated culture is based on religious and ethnic racism. Its victims include 160 million Muslims, 220 million Hindu Dalits, and Sikh and Christian minorities. Since Narendra Modi’s BJP came into power – African nationals working or studying in India have been added to the Hindutva’s “enemy list”.
On Monday, March 27, hundreds of people in New Delhi went on a mob rampage and attacked several African students. The violence was sparked by allegations that five African students were involved in the drug trade and the overdose death of a young Indian boy. Police arrested the five but then released them citing a lack of evidence.
Many social media users justified the attacks and hurled racist slurs against the Africans. Some even accused them of cannibalism and drug racketeering.
Last week, diplomats from 44 African nations accused pro-Israel Modi government of failing to do enough to stop racist attacks on their nationals following a series of brutal assaults on Nigerians. The diplomats in a unanimous decision threatened Modi government that they will ask UNHRC meeting on the issue if such practice continued.
It was not the first time that Africans living India have faced brutal attacks. Experts say these incidents reflect on the growing xenophobia and a deep-rooted racism in Indian society against African people.
Last year, a Congolese man was beaten to death in Delhi. Prior to that, a Hindu mob pulled a Tanzanian female student out of a car and forced her to walk naked in the southern city of Bangalore. In 2015, six Africans were beaten up by a mob in New Delhi.
An estimated 40,000 Nigerians live in India. According to government data, they make up the fifth-largest group of foreign students in India – only one place behind Sudanese students. Most of these Nigerian students choose to live in big cities and constitute a significant chunk of India’s medical tourists. They have often complained of facing racist taunts on the streets.
Not much known is Siddis community of 50,000 Africans who were brought to Indian-subcontinent by Muslim, Portuguese and English invaders. These people live in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Gujarat states.
On April 12, 2017, Ravi Nitesh, an Indian writer and human rights activist wrote: “Africa and India also derive inspiration from each other. People in India connect Africa with Nelson Mandela and in Africa, people respect Mahatma Gandhi. Both were world leaders of non violence and closely linked in their views and ideology. It is worth to remember that Gandhi who is one of the most remembered hero of freedom struggle of India and is the Father of Nation of India had during his time in Africa fought for equal rights. Similarly, Nelson Mandela with his long struggle to abolish apartheid is also a household name in India. Nelson Mandela is one of the two foreign nationals who had received the highest civilian order of India, the ‘Bharat Ratna’.”