Fear and anger gripped the African student community on Tuesday despite increased police presence, the Centre’s promise of swift action and more arrests in the violence against Nigerians in Greater Noida a day earlier.
The African Association of Students of India (AASI) asked students in Greater Noida, a township coming up in Uttar Pradesh, to stay away from colleges till they were provided police security.
“We are hopeful the situation will improve. Yet, it is too early to advice students to resume their normal life. They are terrified,” said ‘Chemist’ Goodwill, a Nigerian who is also a representative of AASI.
The Greater Noida violence against Africans is the latest in a string of such incidents in New Delhi and its satellite towns.
At least six Africans, most of them Nigerians, were wounded in three separate incidents in south Delhi’s Chattarpur in May, a week after a 23-year-old Congolese man was stoned to death in a village near Vasant Kunj.
The African students are upset over the failure of the government to prevent such incidents.
“A basic sensitisation drive has not been carried out by the government. It is the people who have to be told that we are also humans and they should not judge us by our colour,” AASI president Samuel Jack, who is from Nigeria, said at a press conference in New Delhi.
The student body asked the Centre to move quickly or be prepared for a boycott of India by students from the continent.
The ultimatum came even after the Noida Police arrested two more persons and booked more than 300 unnamed people for the assault that wounded four Nigerians.
“We are viewing each and every video footage to grab the scandalous groups quickly,” superintendent of police Sujata Singh said, adding they were looking for two more accused.
Five persons were arrested a few hours after some locals participating in a candle march attacked Africans out for evening shopping.
The protest was over a teenaged boy’s death because of suspected drugs overdose. The locals blamed Manish Khari’s Nigerian neighbours for supplying him the contraband.
The Modi government, too, moved in to contain the damage.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj spoke to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath after an African student tweeted for help.
“He (Adityanath) has assured that there will be a fair and impartial investigation into this unfortunate incident,” Swaraj said in series of tweets.
Minister of state for external affairs MJ Akbar spoke to the acting high commissioner of Nigeria and apprised him of the steps being taken for the security of Nigerian nationals.
Greater Noida is home to around 4,000 students from Africa enrolled in various colleges and private universities.
At least 200 police personnel were deployed at busy road intersections, educational institutions and public places on Tuesday morning.
The district administration called a meeting of police, representatives of residential societies, educational institutes and African students in the evening.
Police were patrolling the streets and “we are sending out a message to all African students that they are 100% safe in Greater Noida”, local SHO Avnish Dixit said.
Security may be up but prejudices run deep.
“Africans do not behave properly in public places, do not carry themselves in a decent manner and show aggression when they talk,” said Anil Sharma, a resident of Greater Noida.
The bias is not lost on African students
“We are a very hospitable, peaceful people. Millions of Indians are happily living in our country so why can’t they treat us the same. Just because we are black we are not entitled for law and order and safety?” AASI’s Jack said.
(With inputs from Vinit in Greater Noida)