On Monday, a mob in the Indian city of Noida, just outside New Delhi, brutally beat Nigerian student Endurance Amalawa after residents blamed Nigerians for the death of an Indian teenager.
Several other Nigerians were attacked in different incidents that day, following protests demanding that all Nigerian students in Noida’s educational institutions leave the area.
The death of the Indian teenager, who had gone missing on March 24, spurred these incidents. Residents broke into the home of five Nigerian students and searched their refrigerator, accusing them of cannibalism. The missing teenager returned the next morning, but died later that afternoon of suspected drug overdose. The family alleged that Nigeria students abducted him and forced him to consume drugs. The police arrested several Nigerians on suspicion of drug peddling, abduction, and murder, but released them for lack of evidence.
Indian officials have condemned the attacks against Nigerians and five people have been arrested. But a top government official said the incident was not a hate crime or “some kind of anger against a race.”
He is wrong.
Young Africans often come to India to pursue a good education and hope for a better life. Their dreams are perhaps not so different than those that take many Indians to faraway places. Frequently when an Indian national is attacked outside the country – like the recent killing of an Indian engineer in the US state of Kansas – there is outrage, and the attacks are typically if not always accurately labeled xenophobic or hate crimes. However, in India, officials repeatedly deny any role of race or hate – even as African students say they are discriminated against and “often seen as demons, drug dealers or prostitutes.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is promoting India as a global hub for education. But hate-filled crimes against foreign students and vigilante attacks in India’s cities paints a different picture. Not to mention the failure of an overburdened and ineffective criminal justice system to prosecute perpetrators.
As Indian authorities respond to recent attacks, they should bear in mind the questions posed by another immigrant. Sunayana Dumala, the wife of the Indian engineer killed in Kansas, has asked, “Do we belong here?” and “So what is the government going to do to stop hate crime?” India needs to answer those same questions.