Given the recent spate of incidents targetting Africans in India, the time has come for the Indian government to make a public condemnation of the kind Wednesday night when Delhi Law Minister Somnath Bharti led a midnight vigilante raid against some Africans staying here, accusing them of being part of a "drug and sex ring".
"With the Goa incident (in which a Nigerian was murdered) recently, followed by this in the capital, I feel the time has come for the Indian government to condemn these incidents and also act against the perpetrators so that Africans living in this country feel reassured. They are feeling very insecure after such incidents," Nigerian High Commissioner to India Ndubuisi Amaku told IANS in an exclusive interview.
The incident Wednesday played out in front of TV cameras, with Bharti berating the police for not raiding some Africans staying in south Delhi's Khirki Extension, whom he described as "Nigerians and Ugandans."
"How can someone say that black people are criminals?" Amaku asked.
Four Ugandan women who were targetted in the raid have, meanwhile, complained to the police that they were physically harassed, threatened and racially abused by unidentified members of the raiding party. The four, who share a rented flat, say they have been threatened many times earlier to leave their lodgings.
Pointing out that he was underlining the point about the Indian government reassuring foreigners, particularly blacks and Africans, to IANS because of its interests in Africa, the Nigerian envoy said : "It is disturbing that there has been no official condemnation of the incident."
He said that since such incidents often stemmed from perceptions born of ignorance and prejudice, government pronouncements and action can have a big impact on social attitudes.
"I don't believe that Indians in general are influenced to act negatively by factors like race and religion. But it seems imperative that some politicians and police agencies need to be educated in race relations and in dealing with foreigners," Amaku said.
"As an African, I feel violated and outraged that such an incident can take place against foreign citizens in India ," he added.
The Delhi minister in question has reportedly said he was drawing up a list of African residents of the neighbourhood the women are staying in, which he would then arrange to have raided to check for illegal activities like drug-running and prostitution.
"If the news reports are correct, it is a violation of the funadamental right to non-discrimination of race, religion, caste or place of birth guaranteed under the Indidan constitution," the high commissioner contended.
"The fact that this is taking place in the capital and law enforcement agencies are involved, it seems no lessons have been learnt from the unfortunate Goa incident, where a Nigerian national lost his life," Amaku said.
The Indian government's action was imperative at this point, he said.
"Action that will reassure Africans living in India that they are welcome in this country," the high commissioner signed off.
(Biswajit Choudhury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)