African Students Are Getting Attacked In India By Racist Mobs

Laurel Dammann
The attacks on African students in India are disturbing for both their racism and their parallels to America.

Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister. Wikimedia Commons: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

In sickening displays of mob mentality, groups of angry people have been attacking Nigerian and Kenyan students in Greater Noida, 18 miles southeast of New Delhi. Many throughout India have expressed horror at the violence, but there remains some reluctance to label the attacks as racially motivated.

"They don't want to call it a racist attack against Africans," said Ezeugo Nnamdi Lawrence, university coordinator with the Association of African Students in India (AASI), "but that's what it is."

Multiple attacks have been reported throughout the week. Nine Nigerians have been attacked — five wounded and two hospitalized for undisclosed injuries — and police reported that a Kenyan woman was recently beaten while getting out of a cab. She was admitted to the hospital and released the same day.

Police have traced the violent mobs back to the death of an Indian teenager this past weekend in what was initially thought to be a drug overdose, but was not confirmed postmortem. The teenager's family filed a lawsuit against five Nigerian men thought to have peddled the drugs. In response to the lack of evidence, African students gathered to peacefully demonstrate for their release. 

Indians organized a counterprotest on Monday, which turned violent and climaxed with about 500 to 600 people attacking two Nigerian students in a Noida shopping mall. That same day, AASI posted a video on Facebook of vicious men kicking, hitting, and slamming metal objects onto a person curled, seemingly unconscious, on the floor. It is believed that the video posted by AASI is of this incident.

In a separate incident, Auwal Aliyu, a 27-year-old Nigerian man, was attacked by a gang when he went out for food. Although he ran back inside the shop, he was chased out, brutalized, and hospitalized.

"The Nigerians that were attacked were completely innocent," Abike Dabiri, Nigeria's special assistant on foreign affairs and diaspora, told CNN. "They just happened to be black." 

It's easy to watch something like this from countries away and feel heartbreak. However, it's much more difficult to take note of the disturbing parallels between India and America and reflect. Just as racism is universal, so is tyranny's need for a scapegoat; the United States is certainly not immune from either. As the current political and social climate simmers with racial tensions built up over hundreds of years, Americans would do well to view India as both a mirror and a warning.

The mob brutality in India is an escalation of racism that already runs rampant in Indian society. In 2014, the Hindustan Times investigated racism in India and reported that Africans across the country experience daily aggressions and, at times, outright violence.

In the lead-up to the attacks on Monday, the arrested Nigerian men were accused of cannibalism. Racism takes similar, if not identical, forms in America. Minorities report daily insensitivityintimidation, and escalation that have only grown in scope over the years. 

Students have been reluctant to leave the relative safety of their homes, and Lawrence's organization is starting a supply delivery system so they don't have to risk their lives for daily necessities.

Police reported that they have arrested five men in connection with the shopping mall attack and they continue to investigate the surge of racial violence.

Sushma Swaraj, India's external affairs minister, tweeted that actions were being taken to ensure justice:

There hasn't been a large scale racist mob in the U.S. for many years, but it happened before, and the mentality that fed the Civil Rights Movement's opposition is alive and well in the halls of Congress.

So, if anyone is watching what's happening to African students in India and not taking the time to tilt the lens closer to home, they're missing an invaluable opportunity to learn and be a part of something better. 

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