The assault on four Nigerian students in Greater Noida follows a string of attacks on African nationals in the country in the last two years, despite the government’s attempt to prevent such incidents.
India is home to many African nationals including from Rwanda, Uganda, Nigeria and Congo, and some of these attacks had taken place in Delhi and Bengaluru, sparking outrage among the African community in India.
On May 20 last, Congolese national Masunda Kitada Oliver was killed in a brutal attack in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj area, triggering outrage by envoys of African countries, even as India had assured them of safety of African nationals.
A few Africans, comprising men from Nigeria and Cameroon and women from Uganda, Cameroon and South Africa were allegedly attacked in May last year in what was dubbed as racial crime, in Delhi’s Mehrauli’s area, even though the city police had claimed the incidents were fallout of arguments over loud music and drinking in public.
Four African nationals were allegedly attacked by a mob at Byrathi in Bengaluru in March 2015, after locals were reportedly “annoyed” with them for creating “nuisance” in the area.
Ratcheting up efforts to contain the damage over attacks on African nationals, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had on May 31 last announced a slew of steps including a country-wide sensitisation campaign while asserting that the killing of the Congolese youth was not a “racial crime”.
Delhi Police had also appointed a Joint Commissioner-rank official as the nodal officer for attending to issues concerning people from African nations living in the city and launched an exclusive helpline for them.
Vice President Hamid Ansari, en route to his two-nation African tour in February, had said these assaults on African nationals were “sporadic” in nature, while underlining that the issue was raised at diplomatic level by some of the countries but India’s response was “comprehensive”.
The string of attacks in the national capital had prompted the Delhi High Court in June last year to observe: “Now Delhi is becoming racist”.
It had also expressed anguish over the attacks on them.
There were reports appearing regularly about alleged racist remarks and attacks on African nationals. However, the government had maintained that all such incidents cannot be termed as “racist”.
Five people have been arrested in connection with attacks in Greater Noida, and prompted intervention by Swaraj, who has promised immediate action.
She spoke to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath after being approached by an African student who pleaded for action, describing the situation as “life threatening”, even as her ministry termed these attacks as “deplorable”.
MEA spokesperson Gopal Baglay said the government is committed to ensuring safety and security of all foreigners in India and people from Africa, including students.