A top Indian diplomat in Johannesburg has dismissed suggestions in sections of the Indian media that the death of an Indian IT worker in an armed robbery had a racial motive.
"It is unfortunate that sections of the Indian media are insinuating racial motives in this incident," Consul General Navdeep Suri told IANS Wednesday. "To impute a racial motive to what was clearly a robbery incident indicates ignorance of the ground realities in South Africa.
"It is true that Johannesburg suffers a rather high violent crime rate, the reasons for which are very complex and include the terrible legacy of apartheid; economic disparities; the high unemployment rate of 30 percent; undocumented migrant population; and possible issues with the law and order machinery.
"Racism is definitely not one of the causes," Suri added emphatically.
"To describe this criminal attack as racist or linking it to attacks on Indian nationals in other countries is also tantamount to ignorance of the history of post-apartheid South Africa and the efforts put in by many people of all race groups, led by iconic leader Nelson Mandela, to establish the rainbow nation that the country is today through the absence of discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, gender or any other factor," the diplomat contended.
Suri added that South Africa's landmark Black Economic Empowerment legislation, in fact, regarded persons of Indian origin as 'Black' and allowed them to benefit equally from the affirmative action provisions of the statute.
Suri said there were continuing discussions between the Indian consulate and relevant South African authorities and agencies that would be involved in the process of returning B. Kiran's body to his family in Hyderabad.
The consulate had by Wednesday afternoon secured clearance from local police authorities for the release of Kiran's body and had also completed the necessary paperwork required from the consulate.
"We understand the desperate need of the family to receive the mortal remains of the deceased at the earliest and are doing everything possible to ensure this happens within the next day or two," Suri stated.
Informed sources here said Kiran was one of two people shot when they returned to their residence on the evening of July 2 from a shopping trip, the other being a colleague, known only as Sridhar, who is still recovering in hospital after also being shot four times.
"They handed over the laptop and bags that the armed robbers who confronted them demanded, but then one of the Indians asked the robbers to please give back his passport and tickets because he was due to return to India the next day," said a neighbour who asked not to be identified.
"It was then that one of the attackers shot the two men, probably because they did not understand what they were saying and believed that they were resisting," the neighbour added.
Kiran was shot three times and succumbed to his wounds on Monday evening.
Police are investigating but have not made any arrests yet. The Indian consulate, meanwhile, has strongly taken up the matter with local authorities and urged vigorous investigation into the attack so that its perpetrators are brought to justice.