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Nigerian Student Targeted in Latest India Violence


FILE - African students participate in a protest against the alleged assault of Tanzanian woman in Bangalore, India on Feb. 6, 2016.

FILE - African students participate in a protest against the alleged assault of Tanzanian woman in Bangalore, India on Feb. 6, 2016.

A Nigerian student was assaulted with an iron rod in Southern India Thursday, barely a week after a Congolese student was beaten to death in New Delhi.

Kazeem, a 23-year-old student of Nizam College whose last name has not been released, was beaten by a neighbor in Hyderbad after the two reportedly had a heated argument regarding a parking space. Though local police have ruled out racism as a motive, citing the parking disagreement instead, crime against Africans has been a persistent issue in India.

The incident follows the killing of Masunda Kitada Oliver, a 23-year-old Congolese graduate student who had lived in New Delhi for six years. He was hailing a rickshaw last Friday when three men who claimed they had hired the vehicle beat him and hit him on the head with a stone. Oliver died later that night, according to police.

"The incident came to light at around 11:55 p.m. and the eyewitnesses told the police that the victim was chased for 20 meters and then beaten up by the assailants," a senior police officer told local media. "He had injuries on his head and face."

Two of the suspects have been detained, while a third remains on the run.

In February, a Tanzanian woman was attacked, stripped, and set ablaze by a mob in Bangalore.

FILE - Indian students hold placards during a protest against the alleged molestation of a Tanzanian girl, in Bangalore, India on Feb. 4, 2016.

FILE - Indian students hold placards during a protest against the alleged molestation of a Tanzanian girl, in Bangalore, India on Feb. 4, 2016.

Discrimination

These cases have brought national attention to an issue of discrimination and violence facing the small population of Africans on the subcontinent. Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj has commented on the two cases this month, demanding an investigation into the beating of Kazeem early Thursday.

Swaraj, however, like many Indians, would like to treat such cases of seemingly prejudice-motivated violence as isolated incidents instead of a larger problem.

"I would like to assure African students in India that this [is] an unfortunate and painful incident involving local goons," Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj tweeted Wednesday.

The Group of African Heads of Mission released a statement insisting that this is a continuous problem, calling on India to ensure better protection of Africans on its soil.

"The Group of African heads of Mission have met and deliberated extensively on this latest incidence in the series of attacks to which members of the African community have been subjected to in the last several years," dean of the group and Eritrean ambassador Alem Tsehage Woldemariam said in a statement.

"They strongly condemn the brutal killing of this African and calls on the Indian government to take concrete steps to guarantee the safety and security of Africans in India."

Boycott

The group of diplomats stated it would boycott an annual Africa Day event, but has since reversed its decision. Still, the initial boycott sent a clear message to India that Africans are concerned with what they perceive as systematic racial violence.

“I think [the] boycott serves a point in the sense that it registers strongly African concern,” Dr. Ajay Dubey, head of the African Student Association at JNU in Delhi, told VOA.

"There is a growing engagement of India with Africa, and Africans are also moving to India and in that context they want some of the prejudices that exist in Indian society to be addressed by taking concrete steps...the government must address the issue and take some visible, concrete steps," he said.

FILE - India students from various colleges hold posters as they stage a candle light vigil in support of the Tanzanian nationals who were recently assaulted by a local mob, in Bangalore on Feb. 4, 2016.

FILE - India students from various colleges hold posters as they stage a candle light vigil in support of the Tanzanian nationals who were recently assaulted by a local mob, in Bangalore on Feb. 4, 2016.

Indians and Africans alike are not optimistic about the prospect of these concrete steps. Local reporters and citizens on social media have commented that the government's actions have been limited to tweets which will serve no purpose in raising awareness and protections for Africans.

While Dubey acknowledges the rampant racism throughout his country, he sees it directed at dark-skinned people, as opposed to people specifically of African descent.

“This racism is not exclusive to Africans – this racism is part of the color-based discrimination that exists in India since colonial times," he said, citing prejudice and violent crimes against dark-skinned and tribal citizens from the South. He says that Africans do, however, face more of a threat than dark-skinned Indians, but because of their skin-tone, as opposed to their place of origin.

But another chairman of an African Students Association, Emmanuel Omurunga of Telangana, told local media that police were not willing to help, indicating that the situation was not only ongoing, but worsening.

"The situation in India is no longer safe for us."

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