Attacks on Africans in Delhi shows racism is alive in India

In India where only few admit or accepts that racism till date exists, how can one tackle with it, is in itself a big question? We act racist in so many obvious ways, but will hotly deny any such slur on our national character. We all are fifty shades of brown, but the lighter we are on that colour scale, the better we like ourselves – and others. All the fairness creams out their simply emphasize over the inherent loathing for the dark skinned. And if anyone happens to ask us, if we are racist, we are instantly amazed by this fact.

The shocking incident in South Delhi’s Mehrauli area on Thursday night where six African nationals were attacked by the mob with cricket bats and sticks spotlights the curious relationship we Indians have with racism. Police have registered three separate cases and detained a few people in relation to the case, but denied that the attacks were planned or racist in nature. In South Delhi’s Mehrauli area, somewhere around 300 African nationals reside and the incident has raised insecurity amongst them.

There has been considerable outcry over the incident since it came to light on Friday. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has voiced her shock and dismay. She said she has spoke to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung about the attacks and was assured that the culprits will be arrested soon and sensitization campaign will be launched in areas where African nationals reside.

But no one has uttered the ‘R’ word. Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Ishwar Singh said, “These are all isolated incidents and not planned attacks. There was no element of racism in the attacks. It’s not as if there’s a public movement against African nationals.” He also added that the attacks happened at different locations (a kilometre apart), at different times and for different reasons. He also insisted that the local police registered cases physical assault and criminal intimidation despite none of the African Nationals agreeing to lodge a complaint.

Circumstances of the incident

Out of the people attacked, one Nigerian national, identified as 32-year-old, said that he was on his way to a nearby church in an auto-rickshaw when a group of locals stopped it midway and attacked him with bats and a stone, which caused a deep injury on his nose among other wounds. “They kept thrashing me as I screamed for help asking them why they were doing so,” he said. He also said that the group also vandalized his friend’s car which was parked on the same street.

In the recent past, attacks on blacks in our country have risen drastically. As more and more students from the African continent come here to study and work, hoping to profit from India’s quality institutions, they often have to contend with frightening racial prejudice.

During the year 2014, Somnath Bharati, then law minister in Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP government in Delhi, famously led a vigilante group into the house of some African women and in utter violation of the rule of law, humiliated them and accused them of prostitution and drug peddling.

Likewise every racist society, these people in India are also stared at, whistled at, called by different names. Of course, our racism is not directed at blacks alone. Men and women from the Northeast face the same animus, quite obviously because they belong to a different racial type. We Indians are not simply colour conscious, but we ascribe qualities and stereotypes to the ‘dark’ and the ‘fair’. And that shapes our response to people, often in dangerous and destructive ways.

The need of the hour is to come out with a law. Only then can we hope to begin the conversation about ending racism in our society.

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