India's xenophobic shame

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India’s xenophobia shame

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara


India has a motto: the guest is god. But this does not protect some visitors from xenophobic attacks. Adam Jones (under a Creative Commons Licence)

The headlines in Indian newspapers now bring shame and sadness to many Indians.

There have been several racist attacks on people who are ‘not like us’. We’ve always had prejudice against castes and fights between communities (eg. Hindu and Muslim), but we think these are normal now.

In Delhi, last week, a boy was missing. Someone started saying that Nigerians had attacked and eaten the boy because they eat people. It is shocking how ignorant people can be today when almost everyone in Delhi has a mobile phone, uses social media and watches news around the world. Sadly, they found the boy. He had died from drugs. But people started saying the boy died because Africans had sold drugs to him.

Newspapers reported that a group beat and almost killed a young Nigerian student in a shopping centre. This is not the first attack on Africans in Delhi. There has also been xenophobic violence against Africans and people from Northeastern India in Bangalore too. A group pulled an African woman out of a taxi and took all her clothes away. Another group beat an African with iron rods and stoned him to death. It is sad that the punishments for these crimes are not the headlines.

Millions of Indians have family and friends living and working all over the globe. There is a lot of anger when Indians face hate-crimes in the US and Australia. So how can we do this to visitors in our country?

Our government, every government, pretends that racism and xenophobia don’t exist in India. It’s not a serious crime. So there is very little action against the criminals – they often go free. This makes other people feel they can be racist too.

All this is totally against Indian culture: we should treat a visitor like a god. ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ (‘The guest is divine’) is a phrase every Indian villager knows. Many people cannot understand these attacks. But they are very real for Africans who suffer. African students in Delhi messaged each other saying ‘Don’t leave your rooms, it’s not safe.’ What a shameful day for India.

Now, angry African representatives from several countries have demanded an independent investigation by the UN into the racist and xenophobic attacks on their students. Some people say that some African ambassadors have sent reports to their home countries telling them not to support India in becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

They have seen that India does nothing about these racist attacks. If they don’t do something that will affect our government, nothing will change.

I hope India’s non-racist, global community will support our African visitors.

To show them we are not all the same. We are not all racists or xenophobic. We love African sports heroes. And Nelson Mandela. But that’s not enough. We need to show solidarity here, in our country. In India.

It’s time for Africa.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have changed).