External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday said the attacks on foreign nationals “embarrass” India, and deputed her colleague General V.K. Singh to address the concern of the heads of missions of Africa over growing violence against African nationals in India,The Hindu reports.
The statement was issued after The Hindu reported that the African Group of Heads of Mission cancelled the Africa Day celebration on May 25, in protest against the recent murder of a Congolese student in South Delhi.
Responding to the news of cancellation, Ms. Swaraj said, “I have asked my colleague Gen V.K. Singh to meet the heads of missions of African countries in Delhi and assure them of the Indian government’s commitment to safety and security to African nationals in India.”
The African Group Heads of Mission took the decision to recommend to their governments “not to send new students to India” due to “stereotypes and racial prejudice against Africans in India.” The decision was taken on Tuesday in the High Commission of Ghana at a meeting, which was called to discuss the recent murder of Congolese student Masunda Kitada Oliver.
“Given the pervading climate of fear and insecurity in Delhi, the African Heads of Mission are left with little option than to consider recommending to their governments not to send new students to India, unless and until their safety can be guaranteed,” a press release from Alem Tsehage Woldemariam, Ambassador of Eritrea and Dean of the African Group of Heads of Mission, said.
“As regards this year’s celebration of Africa Day being organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) for Thursday 26th May 2016, the African Group has requested a postponement of the event. This is because the African community in India, including students, are in a state of mourning in memory of the slayed African students in the last few years, including Mr Oliver,” the release stated.
Following Ms. Swaraj’s tweets, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirmed that a group of African diplomats met Amar Sinha, Secretary (Economic Relations) at the MEA on Tuesday regarding the safety and security of African nationals in India. “Two suspects have already been arrested, while one is on the run. We will ensure that justice is done and stringent punishment given to those involved in the attack,” a statement from the MEA said.
Addressing the concern of “racial prejudice and Afro-phobia” Ms. Swaraj tweeted, “General V K Singh will also meet African students in metro cities to assure them of safety and security of African nationals in India. We will request the State governments to depute Commissioners of Police in all such meetings.”
The press release from the African Heads of Mission had “strongly” urged India to take urgent steps to guarantee the safety and security of Africans in India.
Interestingly, the African move comes two months before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to leave for a trip to Africa, when he is expected to visit Mozambique and South Africa, as a follow up to the India-Africa Forum Summit of October 2015.