African Students Are Getting Attacked In India By Racist Mobs

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

Update: The Kenyan woman who claimed to have been pulled from a cab and beaten by an angry mob is reported by the Hindustan Times to have fabricated the attack. While doctors confirmed the possibility of an assault at the time of her admittance to the hospital, police evidence seems to indicate that her trauma came from another source.

Police stated that evidence from both electronic and eyewitness sources indicate that the original story was a lie.

"We interrogated the driver and he revealed he dropped her safely at her drop location at Omicorn society in Greater Noida," said Dharmendra Singh, senior superintendent of a local police force. "GPS movement of car and payment slip of Ola cab driver show that car’s movement was not stopped during the journey. The lady has been lying."

The story received international attention for its own concerning details, as well as its sequence in the violent mob attacks against African students that rocked the area. Charles Kennedy, vice president of the Nigerian Citizen Welfare Association has apologized publicly for the false story.

“We investigated the matter later in the evening yesterday and found that the woman was under distress due to personal issues," he explained. "She had cooked up this story and we would like to offer our apologizes to the Police and people.”

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."

CNN reports that multiple attacks have been reported throughout the week. Nine Nigerians have been attacked in total — five wounded and two hospitalized for their injuries. Police reported that a Kenyan woman was also 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 in the autopsy. The teenager's family filed a lawsuit against five Nigerian men thought to have sold the teen the drugs. In response to the lack of evidence against these men, African students held a peaceful demonstration asking for authorities to release them. 

Indians organized a counterprotest on Monday, which escalated to violence 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 beating a person curled on the floor, seemingly unconscious. 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 to eat. Although he ran back inside the market for shelter, 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 microaggressions 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 insensitivity, intimidation, and escalation that have only grown in scope over the years. 

Students have been afraid 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 who were potentially involved 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 refusing to take the time to tilt the lens closer to home, they're missing an invaluable opportunity to learn and be a part of something better. 

Banner and thumbnail credit: Creative Commons, Vijayantgovinda

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