Nigerian students and other African nationals living in Greater Noida say they face daily prejudice and are living in fear after two days of violence targeted at them following the mysterious death of a local youth.
The students allege political pressure behind the attacks amid rising tensions between local residents and the foreigners.
“We come to India to live in peace but we will not be bullied by force or violence. The need of the hour is for African students to unite against this blatant racism,” said Lawrence, a Nigerian national.
The violence broke out on Sunday after a Class 12 student Manish Khari died because of a suspected drug overdose. Locals alleged that Africans living in the area had plied the youth with drugs and attacked two Nigerians on Sunday night. Police also arrested five Africans but released them later because of a lack of proof.
A day later, a protest march by residents turned violent as people assaulted several Africans at Greater Noida’s busy Pari Chowk. Rumours startled swirling that residents had abducted a Nigerian woman – a speculation denied by police. The waves of violence have left the foreigners rattled.
Most of the victims of the mob attack were doing their evening shopping near Pari Chowk, oblivious to the undercurrent of anger against AfricansPolice 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
“We have been living in a sense of fear as there is no protection for us even after the attack,” said Bukola, a commerce student at IEC college.
Lawrence said the attacks were well-planned.
“We had assembled at Kasna Police station on Monday morning demanding the release of two students who had been arrested without proper investigation. As soon as the duo got bail and we left the spot, several African nationals were attacked by the local people, said Lawrence.
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.