A series of recent violent attacks on African students has brought racism in India into international focus.
The attacks have sparked widespread condemnation at home and abroad.
But as Bismillah Geelani reports, authorities is India remain reluctant to acknowledge the country’s deep-seated culture of racism.
A disturbing video has gone viral in India. It shows a mob viciously attacking a Nigerian man at suburban Delhi mall.
The attackers kick, punch and hit him with steel dustbins, chairs, bricks, and anything they can lay their hands on.
The victim is 21-year old Nigerian student Endurance Amalawa — who is now lying on a hospital bed with bandages covering his head, arms and back.
In the adjacent bed is his elder brother Precious Amalawa. He has fewer injuries and is able to recount the ordeal.
He remembers entering the mall, buying some clothes and sitting down to eat KFC before the mood suddenly changed.
“We got a message that people are attacking blacks and we had to leave that place,” recalls Precious Amalawa.
“We went out and stopped an auto [rickshaw] but those people did not help us. Then we saw those Indians almost 500 or more, they were carrying rods, bricks and many other things and they were shouting. I told my brother we have to run.”
But their cries for help were ignored by police and everyone else.
“We entered Levi’s shop and we begged those people to protect us but they pushed us out, and then those 500 or more people started using bricks to knock the glass and open the door.”
Precious continued,“I and my brother, just the two of us, tried to stop them but we could not withstand they took my brother out and started beating him, they used something like rod or knife to stab me.”
The attackers didn’t stop until the brothers collapsed into unconsciousness, believed to be dead.
The attack occurred during a protest over the death of a local teenage boy due to an alleged drug overdose.
Local residents like Manoj Kumar accuse African students of drug dealing and hold them responsible for the death.
“These Nigerians are doing these things all the time,” Kumar complained.
“We are fed up with them. They park their cars in the middle of the road and drink and dance and make a lot of noise. If anyone objects to all this they start fighting with them ... They are drug peddlers and they are leading our youth astray.”
At least 7 other African students have been targeted by violent mobs in and around Delhi in the past week.
The attacks have sent shock waves through India’s African community.
Samuel Jack is president of the African Students’ Association.He says the community is living in fear and many are seriously considering going back to their home countries.
“We are not safe in this country, this is the point. African students are not safe,” stated Jack.
“If you are an African you have no right to fair hearing, if you are African the entire legal system is against you purely because you are black. We feel so horrible and scared to even move on the streets in this country because you don’t know when the next attack will happen against you because you are so vulnerable,” he said
There are around 30,000 African students in India.
In recent years attacks against them have increased across the country. Last year, a Congolese student was beaten to death by a mob in New Delhi.
Most Africans say they face insults and discrimination on a daily basis.
The recent spate of attacks has also affected relations between African nations and India.
Earlier this week a joint statement by all African ambassadors in India described the attacks as xenophobic and racially motivated, blaming the Indian government for failing to take deterrent measures.
In response, the Indian government has arrested 5 of the attackers, and assured the protection of the African community.
But the government insists the attacks are not racially motivated.
Sheshadri Chari is spokesperson for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“These are very isolated attacks and behind every such attack that has taken place anywhere in the country there is a trigger,” argued Chari.
“Every attack is different and has a different trigger. It is very wrong to accuse the Indian population or India or the government of India of being either xenophobic or racial. These are very strong words, totally unacceptable and an unfortunate way of looking at these isolated incidents,” he concluded.
But it is not only Africans that have been the target of racial discrimination in India.
People from India’s northern states also routinely experience racism, and have been pushing for legislative reform.
Suhas Chakma, Director of the New Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights says the government is in denial – like an ostrich with its head in the sand - and that’s only worsening an already bad situation.
“When we talk about racism we believe only the white [people] can do it and we cannot. But today we commit the same crime and we still take the same Ostrich-like approach,” Chakma commented.
“Racism exists in every society. The problem is when you do not recognize the existence of the problem you cannot create the law and if you do not create the law it does not create any awareness.”