The Indian government is facing tough questions from the African diplomatic community that has decided to stay away from this year’s Africa Day celebrations to protest against the murder of a Congolese national in Delhi and harassment of African students in various parts of the country.
Even as the Narendra Modi government seeks to woo the 54-nation African continent and wants more African students to study in India, heads of missions said they might ask their governments not to send new students.
Congo’s Masonda Ketada Oliver, 29, was beaten to death by three men around 11.30pm on Friday after an altercation over hiring an auto-rickshaw near Kishangarh village in Vasant Kunj area in south Delhi.
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“The Group of African Heads of Mission have met and deliberated extensively on this latest incidence in the series of attacks to which members of the African community have been subjected to in the last several years,” a statement by Alem Tsehage Woldemariam, ambassador of Eritrea and the dean of the Group of African Heads of Mission, said late Tuesday night.
“They strongly condemn the brutal killing of this African and call on the Indian government to take concrete steps to guarantee the safety and security of Africans in India.”
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said she had asked junior foreign minister VK Singh to meet the heads of missions of African countries and assure them of India’s commitment to the safety and security of African nationals.
Swaraj also said the government ordered stringent action against the culprits after Oliver’s death and assured of launching a sensitisation programme to stop such incidents.
I would like to assure African students in India that this an unfortunate and painful incident involving local goons.— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) 25 May 2016
In his statement, Woldemariam said: “Accordingly, the Indian government is strongly enjoined to take urgent steps to guarantee the safety of Africans in India including appropriate programmes of public awareness that will address the problems of racism and Afro-phobia in India.”
He also called upon the media, civil society, think-tanks, research institutions, parliamentarians, politicians and community leaders to play major roles in addressing the stereotypes and prejudices against Africans.
As for the Africa Day celebrations being organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) on May 26 in Delhi, Woldemariam said that the African group has requested that the event be postponed.
“They have also decided not to participate in the celebrations, except the cultural troupe from the Kingdom of Lesotho,” the statement said.
From HT archives
Vasant Kunj attack
Woldemariam’s statement said Oliver and his friend Samuel had gone to meet another friend and on the way back Oliver flagged an auto-rickshaw which stopped a few metres away.
However, as he tried to board the vehicle, three Indian men standing nearby jumped on to it. An argument ensued following which Oliver was thrashed.
“They pushed Oliver to the ground and kicked him in the face and abdomen repeatedly,” the statement said. “One of the Indians picked up a large stone from the roadside and hit Oliver on the head.”
According to the statement, a passer-by who stopped to help the Congolese was also beaten up and the attackers fled the scene when they saw that Oliver was unconscious.
Oliver was rushed to a private hospital from where he was referred to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Trauma Centre but he died on the way.
Woldemariam said the African heads of missions have noted with deep concern that “several attacks and harassment of Africans have gone unnoticed without diligent prosecution and conviction of perpetrators”.
In January, a mob in Bangalore allegedly attacked and stripped a Tanzanian girl after dragging her out of the car in which she was travelling along with her three friends. Her friends were also beaten up.
(With IANS inputs)