New Delhi: Almost two years after an attack on five African nationals in Greater Noida that drew global outrage, not much has changed with many Africans stereotyped as drug-peddlers and pimps, as they keep facing racial discrimination and violence in their everyday lives in the country.
There is a multitude of problems that African nationals face in India, apart from their negative portrayal as criminals. Many in India often refer to the African people as “Nigerians” — almost as a term of abuse. In some instances, African students, conscious of their skin colour, said they felt isolated.
60000Africans of different nationalities living in India
There are approximately 60,000 Africans of different nationalities residing in India. Many have faced racial discrimination at some point of time during their stay in the country. Majority of Africans who have come to reside in the country are either pursuing higher studies or working.
According to the Association of African Students in India (AASI), about 25,000 Africans study in Indian universities, drawn by their high academic standards, low fees and the use of English language as the medium of instruction. Nigeria sends the highest numbers to India, followed by Sudan and Kenya.
“Most of the Africans in India are seen as criminals. I don’t know why Indians think we are drug-peddlers or burglars. I am not saying all of us are innocent, but for the fault of a few, all Africans who come to India should not be seen through the prism of discrimination and hatred,” Michael Kwaje (name changed), a law student from Ghana, told Gulf News here.
25000Africans studying at various Indian universities
Another Nigerian student said type-casting every African as a drug-peddler was like calling every Indian a rapist.
“It may be a brutal analogy to hear for some, but it is accurate in invoking the indiscriminate, unfair way in which negative stereotyping works. Indians slam racial attacks on other Indians abroad and describe them as hate crimes. But, the grievous attacks on African students in the past prove that Indians are no better than those whom they call racists. They don’t understand that we are here because we love India — no matter what,” a Gambian student studying architecture in Delhi told Gulf News on condition of anonymity.
Africans being cannibals is another major misconception some Indians harbour. Interestingly, it was one of the reasons why the locals had targeted five Nigerian students in Greater Noida and brutally assaulted them in the recent past.
42African nations said India must solve the problem of “racism and Afro-phobia”
“Indians need to understand that we are humans, just like them, and cannot even think of eating another human being. Please understand, we are not cannibals. Please get rid of this idea that all black people eat humans,” Presidoe Okuguni, an African from Eritrea and a former president of AASI, told Gulf News.
Okuguni lamented that African nationals were repeatedly ridiculed and insulted in India. “African nationals face various degrees of discrimination in India. To begin with, they don’t get accommodation easily. Even if they do, it takes a lot of references. Everyday, African men and women are subjected to lewd comments in Hindi and regional languages. If we don’t understand their language, it does not mean we do not get that we are being insulted,” he added