Cover Photo: Samuel T Jack, president, Association of African students in India, spoke with Rohit E David on the recent attacks on African students in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. Samuel spoke of the challenges faced by African students and the pervasive feeling of discrimination among the community:
(Note: Are we Indians racists? None of us would like to admit that openly. We saw that many times in TV debates. While some of them were adamant not to admit our deep rooted racism proven by numerous racist attacks and murder, most of them were humble enough to admit that we are.
A parallel question that can be answered more easily and honestly is: Are we Indians Casteists? A counter question to that gives a lucid answer: Is there any other country in the world which claims to be the inventor and its mass producer — it’s national production chains in India has Hindu religious sanctions as well – of four-fold hierarchical caste system? All our sympathies to the Sudras, kicked about by every one of the upper caste. Even a Catholic bishop (recall kidnap of Kadapa’a Dalit bishop) is not spared by upper caste priests, while his brother bishops methodically and deliberately cultivated a studied silence, even in the face of laity shouting: “Speak up bishops!” We reported it detail last year.
The mindset behind Casteism and Racism is the same – that all humans are not equal, but some superior and some inferior based on their birth, Brahmins at the top and Sudras at the bottom – and therefore with unequal rights and duties to be followed blindly and enforced with religious sanctions. We wax eloquent to parade our superior Indian spirituality trumpeting high spiritual thoughts like: “Vasudaiva Kudumbakam” (humans are God’s household); “Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavanthu” (May the whole world live happy and contented); “Adithi Devo Bhava” (treat guests as visible gods),etc.
But our daily conduct often happens to be a far cry to those high claims; preaching and practice tend to be poles apart. This is clearly highlighted by Samuel T Jack, our African Brother. He does not expect us to treat him like a Godly guest in human form, but just as any other human being. But the fact is African students are not given the respect and protection India gives to its cows, which is too bad.
So let us be at least honest and humble enough to accept that we as a nation are racists and caste-minded people. That alone will prompt us to make baby steps first and giant steps later to change our mindset for the better. Let our actions speak louder than words. Stop meaningless talks, start acting; perform or get pulverized in the battle of wits to shine as noble World Citizens with borderless viction, conviction and action. james kottoor, editor)
What do you have to say about the attacks on Nigerian students?
I think it’s barbaric. In fact we, the African student community in India, are very scared. We fear for our lives. We are not accepted in this country. I think we have to stop coming to India. There is so much of hatred towards African people in this country.
This is not the first time such attacks have happened. Last year, we took it up with the government. Authorities had assured us of protection and that they will sensitise people. Nothing happened. The worst part is that when we go to a police station to file a complaint, cops don’t accept our report.
In fact, authorities accuse us of taking drugs, which is not acceptable. I want to ask them to go to Subhash Nagar (Delhi), Munirka (Delhi) and Punjab, and see what’s happening. If there is a social problem, the government of India should address it and not accuse us.
What response did the students get when they had gone to the police?
The first time when we had gone to the police station on March 24, police refused to stamp the FIR. They had written our complaint, but were in denial about taking it up as a case.Now an FIR has been registered against the five Indian people who are in police custody.
Tell us about the discrimination your community is facing.
We are victims of abuses on roads. We are called names. I’m not talking about kids, even elderly people use foul language against us. India has not accepted the black community here.
Is anyone listening? What is happening to our community in Kolkata and Gujarat? Has anyone even heard us?
Let me tell you that when Indians come over to Africa, they are being protected. In India even a cow has more value than us. It’s as if living in a neighbourhood in India is taboo for us. People don’t accept our ‘hi’.
Do you consider Indians as racists?
Yes, absolutely. There is racial discrimination in this country. There is caste system. When i got admission into Delhi University, students called me names. We don’t want this. Let me tell you that most African people in India can speak Hindi. So, please don’t do this.
What action are you taking within the community to deal with this situation?
We are advising them to stay at home.We are also speaking with local African news channels, so that they can know what we are facing in India.
Have you been in touch with the state and central governments?
No, we are not in touch with them. They don’t have any sympathy. Government hasn’t sent even one official to see how African students are doing. Our situation cannot improve by mere tweets by ministers. Whatever the ministry of external affairs has said about our protection, is in writing only.
African students studying in India are just like Indian kids. Government should take preventive measures and ensure that such incidents don’t happen again. I have no idea how they are going to do it.
What is the implication of this incident and what is going to happen to India-Africa relations?
There will be a huge impact. Some African students who are studying here, will be ministers in our respective countries. They are going to hold key positions. Since, government cannot secure our lives here, we see no reasons why Indians should reside in our country. If we want, we can flare the situation in our country and make it hard for Indians to live there. However, we don’t want that. We are against violence. We want peace. Most African students in India won’t come back again.(DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own)