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African envoys’ statement on attacks painful; can’t call assaults racist till probe is over: Sushma Swaraj

A group of African envoys said India didn’t do enough to stop the attacks on Africans.

india Updated: Apr 05, 2017 20:56 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sushma Swaraj,Attack on Africans,Greater Noida
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj(PTI Photo)

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Thursday she was “surprised and pained” at the charge by some African nations that India is a xenophobic country after multiple attacks on Nigerian students in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh last month.

Swaraj reiterated in the Lok Sabha that the attack on the foreign nationals was a criminal act and one should not jump the guns to call it racial.

“I spoke to Uttar Pradesh chief minister demanding independent probe … Six persons have been arrested in this regard,” she said in the Lok Sabha.

“You can’t say our steps are inadequate. We are committed to ensuring the security of all foreigners in India... It is not right to connect with racism before probe ends. I said this in the context of attacks in the US too,” she said.

Her reaction came after a group of African envoys said India didn’t do enough to stop the attacks on Africans.

A statement by the Heads of African Mission dated March 31 called for a condemnation of the attacks at the highest level in India and demanded an independent investigation by human rights bodies. The document also called the attacks “racist” and xenophobic”.

In Abuja, Olushola Enikanolaiye, permanent secretary in Nigeria’s foreign ministry, summoned Indian envoy B Nagabhushana Reddy on Wednesday and expressed “displeasure” over the attacks on Nigerians and voiced concern that the incident was not the first of its kind.

Swaraj also told the Lower House that she asked her deputy MJ Akbar to speak to Nigerian diplomats about her telephonic conversation with the UP chief minister and brief them about the development in the case.

Last week, Swaraj said an impartial probe will be held into the attacks after Nigeria asked the Indian government to ensure the immediate arrest and prosecution of those responsible and that the Centre has sought a report from the state government.

Opposition members also raised concern over the issue in the Rajya Sabha.

Manish Khari, a 17-year-old resident of NSG Society in Greater Noida, went missing on March 24, only to be found in front of the building complex’s gate in the morning next day in an inebriated condition.

A Class 12 student of JP International School in Greater Noida, Khari was admitted to a private hospital on March 25, where he died due to cardiac arrest at 4 pm.

Enraged locals in Greater Noida thrashed several Africans in a burst of fury following Khari’s death. Residents blamed the Africans of plying boy with drugs. A purported video of the assault went viral on social media that showed locals kicking and punching a Kenyan man, sparking widespread outrage.

Greater Noida Police booked 5 Nigerian students of Noida International University under the charges of kidnapping, culpable homicide and murder. The next day, police arrested the Nigerians in connection with the case, but let them go because of lack of proof.

Things took another ugly turn when a group of locals, carrying out a candlelight march, attacked Africans at Ansal Plaza Mall in Greater Noida. At least 6 Africans were injured in the attack.

Following the attack, police issued an advisory asking Africans to refrain from travelling in Greater Noida. They also deployed heavy security outside residential societies where Africans live. They were even escorted by the police for their safety.

Security measures were relaxed from Monday after the situation normalised.

First Published: Apr 05, 2017 13:21 IST