African diplomats are not happy with the relations between Africans and Indians.
The envoys in New Delhi are complaining of renewed “Afro-phobia and racism” against African students.
In protest, the heads of missions said they would not attend the African Day event that was earmarked for Thursday (May 26) arguing that they are morning the Africans killed by mobs in India recently.
Organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Africa Day, themed 'India-Africa: Bound Together', does not represent the interest of the Africans in the country at the moment and as such, the diplomats decided not to take part in it. The week-long event that will be kicked off on Thursday is aimed at enhancing India-Africa relations, among other things.
The envoys were triggered by a recent death of 29-year-old Masonda Ketada Olivier, a Congolese national. The deceased, who was a French language teacher in New Delhi, was allegedly killed by three drunk men following an argument over hiring an auto-rickshaw. Two of the suspects have been arrested, and police are on the lookout for the third.
Apart from boycotting the event, the agitated African heads of missions also said that they considered “recommending to their governments not to send new students to India unless and until their safety can be guaranteed,” they stated, demanding action from the Indian government.
Speaking to the Nation, Kenya’s High Commission to India Florence Weche said that instead of attending the event, the ambassadors had chosen to organize their own celebrations alongside the week-long festivities planned by the Indian government.
“We are currently enjoying [an] Africa Day reception organized by African Missions in Delhi. Africans will not attend [the] Africa Day function tomorrow [today] 26th May organized by the Indian Council of Cultural Affairs,” she said.
“This is a collective decision of the African Group (of heads of missions) in Delhi.”
Continued attacks against Africans
In February, another African National was attacked in India causing the diplomats to issue a protest note.
A Tanzanian student had been attacked by a crowd in the southern city of Bengaluru, some 2,000 km from the capital New Delhi. The 21-year-old female student was allegedly stripped and beaten by the mob after being mistaken to have caused a road accident in which an Indian woman was killed.
Earlier on, some three African men were beaten up by a mob for objecting being taken pictures by locals. It is not just locals that are attacking African nationals. In January 2015, a minister of the Delhi government raided a neighborhood inhabited by Africans in what was claimed to be a den for drug peddlers and prostitution.
Diplomats have also experienced their own set of afro-phobia attacks and racism while on duty in the country. A diplomat told the Hindu that he only “realized after a while that the taunts of ‘monkey, monkey’ were aimed at me,” Niankoro Yeah Samake, the Ambassador of Mali, said, recounting how a group of young men would taunt him daily during his jogging and create a ruckus imitating monkeys.
Image control measures
The frequent attacks are fast becoming a problem in bilateral ties, according to the diplomats.
Deciding against celebrating Africa Day in India was not easy, but after a long meeting on Tuesday conducted by the African group (heads of missions), most of the 54-member countries agreed to cancel celebrations both in their consulates as well as the ones to be conducted by ICCR.
“Too many attacks are taking place against African youths in different parts of India, and we had to respond as we consider our ties with the country very special and would not allow them to be damaged by such actions of a few,” the diplomat from North Africa told The Hindu.
In response to the African leaders, the Indian government, in an effort to manage the already tainted image, said it would look into the matter.
"When I came to know about the unfortunate killing of a Congo national in Delhi, we directed stringent action against the culprits. I have asked my colleague, General VK Singh, to meet the heads of missions of African countries in Delhi and assure them of the Indian government’s commitment to safety and security to African nationals in India,” Swaraj tweeted.
With Indian government set to establish deeper relations with Africa, the recent attacks couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Come July, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to travel to South Africa and Mozambique to broaden engagements with the continent. The visits are a follow-up to the India-Africa Forum Summit of October 2015.
While trade relations between India and African countries has broadened in the recent years, more has to be done to maintain the relationship especially for Africans already living in India not only to save the image but also lives.
Image credit: AP