Updated: May 26, 2016 8:01:09 am
WITH THE African missions alleging “racism and Afro-phobia in India”, days after the killing of a Congolese youth in the capital, the government got into damage control mode on Wednesday and sought to assuage their concerns on the safety of African nationals. The government also agreed to meet African envoys once every three months to discuss their grievances.
By evening, the African envoys — who had said they would skip the Africa Day celebrations on Thursday — indicated that they were likely to attend the event.
“I would like to assure African students in India that this is an unfortunate and painful incident involving local goons. When I came to know about the unfortunate killing of a Congo national in Delhi, we directed stringent action against the culprits. General V K Singh will also hold meetings with African students in metro cities to assure them of their safety and security. We will request state governments to depute commissioners of police in all such meetings,” tweeted External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
“Najeeb Jung, Lt Governor, Delhi has assured me that he will take immediate action in this regard. I have already asked Lt Governor of Delhi to take steps and ensure that this case is tried by a fast track court,” she tweeted,
Minister of State, External Affairs, V K Singh, met the African envoys based in Delhi on Wednesday afternoon. According to officials, Singh “impressed on the African heads of missions the need to continue the tradition (Africa Day celebrations) but also said that India would be guided by them in the matter”, after which the African side said they would revert on the issue after holding internal discussions.
Sources said the African side seemed to be satisfied with India’s efforts to bring to book the culprits of the attack and were likely to attend the celebrations tomorrow.
When asked if they would attend the event, Dean of African Group Heads of Missions and Ambassador of Eritrea Alem Tsehage Woldemariam said, “Let’s see. There is still a day left.”
On Tuesday, the group of nations had sought postponement of the Africa Day celebrations being organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and announced their decision not to participate in the event, “except the cultural troupe from the Kingdom of Lesotho.” The missions had said the African community in India, including students, were in a state of mourning “in memory of the slain African students in the last few years.”
“The Group of African Heads of Mission have met and deliberated extensively on this latest incident in the series of attacks to which members of African community in India have been subjected in the last few years. They note, with deep concern, that several attacks and harassment of Africans in India have gone unresolved without diligent protection and conviction of perpetrators,” said Woldemariam in a sharply-worded note.
He said the envoys of the African countries had asked the government to “take urgent steps to guarantee the safety of Africans in India including appropriate programmes of public awareness that will address the problem of racism and Afro-phobia in India.”
Detailing the events leading to the death of Congolese national Masonda Ketada Oliver in Delhi on May 20, the African missions expressed their will to partner with civil society in India to “address stereotypes and racial prejudices” against Africans in India.
However, the MEA in a separate statement said all criminal acts should not be seen as racially-motivated.
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