Several African nationals were assaulted in Greater Noida on Monday after a candle light march in memory of a teenage student’s death over a suspected drug overdose got out of hand. Rumours started circulating that a Nigerian girl had been abducted, adding further tension, but police denied any such incident had taken place.
Noida police chief Dharmendra Singh said no abduction happened. “It’s a rumour to escalate tension in the area,” he said.
The peaceful protest march suddenly turned violent and triggered a vicious racial attack as locals have accused Africans living in the area of drugging class 12 student Manish Khari, who died of a cardiac arrest on Saturday.
Most of the victims of the mob attack were doing their evening shopping near Pari Chowk, oblivious to the undercurrent of anger against Africans.
Police arrested five people allegedly involved in the violence. More are likely to be picked up.
Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj has asked for a report from the Uttar Pradesh government about the violence.
I have asked for a report from Government of Uttar Pradesh about the reported attack on African students in Noida.— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) March 27, 2017
The protesters were shouting slogans against Africans and demanding arrest of those behind the death of the boy, a resident of NSG Society in Greater Noida, who reportedly went missing on Friday evening and was found in a drug haze near the entrance of his colony the next morning. He died in a private hospital later.
People accused Nigerians living in the building of drugging the boy. Police picked up five Nigerians and confiscated their passports, but released them because of lack of evidence.
Many African students live in Greater Noida, where a clutch of international universities has come up of late.
“The crowd was peaceful until it reached Pari Chowk, but went out of control at the sight of Africans in the market. The protesters roughed up many black people until police intervened and baton-charged to disperse them,” an eyewitness said.
People were not happy with the police action after the boy’s death. Hundreds of protesters gathered at Surajpur on Monday morning and surrounded the offices of the district magistrate and senior superintendent of police, demanding action against the culprits.
“The population of Africans is growing in Greater Noida, which is increasingly becoming a menace to locals,” said Sher Singh Bhati, a resident.
Africans alleged that the incident was a racial attack.
“The environment is such that locals may any time attack us. We are scared of coming out of our homes,” a Nigerian said.
More than 150 policemen were deployed in areas where Nigerian students live.
Greater Noida circle officer Abhinandan said: “This behaviour of people giving a racial tone to an issue is not acceptable. Some anti-social elements joined the peaceful march and resorted to violence. We have videotaped the events and will book each one of them.”
Monday’s attack reflects a growing intolerance against Africans in New Delhi and its satellite cities. At least six Africans were wounded in three separate incidents in Chattarpur area of south Delhi in May last year, prompting external affairs minister Swaraj to take up the issue with home minister Rajnath Singh.
The attacks on the African youth, mostly from Nigeria, happened less than a week after a 23-year-old man from Congo was stoned to death by three people in Kishangarh village near Vasant Kunj.