Nigerian and other African students studying in India recently came under attack from unruly Indian crowds. Some were beaten by a mob in the district of Greater Noida, a suburb of Delhi, until they became unconscious. Five Nigerians were beaten and badly wounded in Noida, a town in Uttar Pradesh state, last Monday because of their alleged link to the death of an Indian student. Indian police however said the cause of the student’s death remains unknown.
The Federal Government reacted by asking the Indian Government to arrest and prosecute those responsible for attacks of Nigerian students in an Indian university. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Amb. Olushola Enikanolaiye made the call when he met with Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria Nagabushana Reddy in Abuja. India’s external affairs minister also promised a fair and impartial investigation. Most Indians themselves also took to the social media to decry the violence and show support to the affected students.
This is not the first time African students have been attacked in India over the past year. In February 2016, two policemen were suspended and several arrests were made after a mob attacked a Tanzanian student in Bangalore. Last May, too, a student from the Democratic Republic of Congo was beaten to death by Indian men in Delhi following an argument. In another incident in Hyderabad last May, an Indian man was arrested following an attack on a Nigerian student.
The violence has foreign students in India rattled. The Association of African Students of India asked African students in Noida to stay indoors, but another problem soon surfaced when Indian landlords asked some students to vacate their flats. The students allege political pressure behind the attacks amid rising tensions between local residents and foreigners. They said they went to India to live in peace and have asked the central government to ensure their protection in the national capital region. Human Rights Watch said “hate-filled crimes against foreign students and vigilante attacks in India’s cities” are not new and authorities should label this is a crime fuelled by race. While we commend the Indian government for its prompt response through the arrest of five suspects, we however urge it to take more proactive action and prevent the development of a South Africa-type cycle of xenophobic attacks.
While the Indian government’s actions are applauded, Nigerian students and their other African counterparts say they feel uncomfortable at the hostile attitude of local Indians, who blame Africans as being the source of crime and drugs.
We condemn mob action and jungle justice as unwarranted and deplorable. We also urge Nigerians and all other Africans living or studying in India to respect the laws of their host country and should steer clear of drugs and crime, if indeed they engage in such. The very cordial relationship that has existed between Nigeria and India since independence should be maintained and deepened to the benefit of both countries.
India is now Nigeria’s biggest trading partner, as recently attested to by the India High Commission in Abuja. Crude oil is Nigeria’s leading export item to India while pharmaceutical items, machinery and vehicles are the top Indian export items to Nigeria. Last year India exported to Nigeria $400 million worth of vehicles including parts and accessories; another $390 million worth of pharmaceuticals as well as machinery and appliances worth over $26 million. In addition, thousands of Nigerians make yearly trips to India for medical reasons and there is a vibrant telecommunication business chain between the two countries. Nigerian students also spend their hard-earned money and contribute to India’s economy. In order to protect and deepen this strategic partnership, the authorities in both countries should work hard to ensure that sentimental feelings of locals do not wreck a fruitful relationship that has been nurtured over many decades.