African students studying in colleges across India say the recent incident in Bangalore, where a Tanzanian woman was allegedly stripped and paraded by an angry mob, was shocking but not entirely surprising.
Be it in Noida, Pune or Punjab, students from Africa pursuing higher education across the country shared the kind of hardship they face on a daily basis. In Punjab alone, African students have been victims of racial violence in at least three horrific incidents in the recent past .
“It’s very tough for us to travel or ride our bikes. The policemen harass us in the name of checking bike papers. In the market too, if we are roaming with girls, they pass sarcastic comments. They call us names and treat us as if we were running some crime rackets,” said a Phagwara-based student who did not want to be named.
There are more than 2,000 African students residing in Jalandhar and Phagwara. Though there has been no major incident of violence on college campuses in the last one year, outside they face racial taunts at every turn. Even the Punjab Police refers to them as kale (blacks) in the FIRs of petty or big crimes registered against them.
The situation is no different in Pune, where nearly 1,800 African students are enrolled in different educational institutions.
In September last year, home minister Rajnath Singh was caught off guard during a function at an educational institute, when Simon Kuany, president of Symbiosis International Students Council, complained about the ‘racial slur’ he was facing in Pune.
Kuany had complained about people calling them “Kaalia” and also pointed to some of the stereotypes Indians had about African nationals—“that we are all drug addicts”.
In the National Capital Region of Noida, on Delhi’s outskirts, the most common grouse of African students was being labelled as “drug peddlers” and denial of houses on rent.
“College is good but India is bad. People in India are racists. They often make comments on my colour of skin and body. And they stare at me like I am an alien,” says Maria, an engineering student at Sharda University.
Says Dan, a native of Congo, “Friends in college are very good. I have never felt discriminated but outside the college, things are not the same. We avoid visiting public places because people stare at us.”
According to Sharda University, there are around 800 students from various African countries enrolled in different study programmes. Around 40 per cent students stay in college hostel and rest stay in rented accommodation outside college campus.
“Around 40 % African students stay in college hostel and rest stay in rented accommodation outside the campus. Every year we get more than 1,000 admission applications from African countries. Most of them return to their countries after finishing the course,” says Amal Kumar, Joint Registrar of Sharda University.
In Amity University, they have a separate counselling centre for African students. “We have around 150 African students in the college. We regularly call a counselling session with them. We have hostel facilities for them but it is their discretion to stay in college or outside,” says Savita Mehta, Vice-President, Communications, Amity University.