Recent attacks upon African people in India has come as a shock for many of us who believe in equality and human rights. Though, no words are enough to condemn this incident, I not only condemn this, but as an Indian national, I also apologise to every African citizen for this shameful incident that happened in my country by my fellow citizens. As per reports, Ministry of External Affairs of India had immediately taken cognizance of this incident and had instructed to all concerned persons for strict action and few persons have been arrested.
Africa and India share a close bond on many grounds. Both are doing efforts to improve themselves in social and economic development. India is a trusted partner of Africa and in many sectors, both are working together. African nationals, especially students every year come to India for various works, education being a primary one. African students constitute the largest number of foreign students in India. In trade as well Africa and India have close cooperation in healthcare, oil and gas and others and this trade volume is more than 90 billion dollar per year.
Africa and India also derive inspiration from each other. People in India connect Africa with Nelson Mandela and in Africa, people respect Gandhi. Both were world leaders of non violence and closely linked in their views and ideology. It is worth to remember that Gandhi who is one of the most remembered hero of freedom struggle of India and is the Father of Nation of India had during his time in Africa fought for equal rights. Similarly, Nelson Mandela with his long struggle to abolish apartheid is also a household name in India. Nelson Mandela is one of the two foreign nationals who had received the highest civilian order of India, the ‘Bharat Ratna’.
It is important to recall these connections. We, the people in India always respect people from diverse backgrounds. Diversity is a long cherished ideal entrenched in our history and what continues to constitute our identity. We have always welcomed people of diverse cultures. In fact, a famous quote in Sanskrit, “Athiti Devo Bhavan” that means ‘Guest is God’ defines the welcoming nature of India. Given this history and principle of diversity so dear to Indians, the attacks on Africans in India is a matter of great shame and concern for us.
What happened in India is also happening in the world at many places. We have seen attacks upon Indians in Australia and United States of America and with this status of discrimination, our own actions to discriminate others (Africans in this case) can’t be justified in any way and is even more condemnable.
Moreover, we also have an affinity in the historical fact that India and Africa both have been colonised. Both survived, fought back and got freedom. But still what we see is instead of more strong binding among the victims (who were colonised), we are still keener for bonding with those who exploited our people and resources. Somehow, we have made a mindset where we are more attracted towards ‘fair’ skinned persons than ‘darker’ ones, despite the fact that we both are dark skinned.
World is moving ahead, civilisations are growing everyday and we are in era of globalisation. We have been saying the World is a family, through our books and teachings and we can see it now through digital connections. I have experience of working with two African organisations that joined our global call of observing ‘Tree for Harmony’ two years ago. We had been joined by organisations from as much as 10 countries including Cameroon and Sudan from the African continent. We not only enjoyed working with them and got inspired to see their enthusiasm towards contributing a greener and more peaceful world, but we are more happy that we are still connected as friends. We now share a personal bond with each other and talk frequently. All these things only compel us to think, especially now when our fellow countrymen went wrong on the path of violence.
There are so many things that India and Africa can share through their mutual bonds. To tackle a situation where such attacks need to be stopped, stringent law and order definitely needs to be there, but removing even thoughts of such attacks from the mindsets of people should be the larger goal of governments and civil societies. There is a need to challenge stereotypes that give way to thoughts and actions of violence. Most of the conflicts arises in India against Africans with the allegation of drug smuggling and human trafficking. It is true that all Africans are not involved in such activities and in fact good numbers of Africans are actually involved seriously and generously towards studies and other professions, but there are few who are in this chain of drug smuggling and many such arrests have been made even earlier by security agencies of India. Their involvement in any such thing cannot be a base of arising conflict with whole of African community, as it would be, then Indians will stand against Indians and many other such communities due to their involvements in various such offences. It is always needed to de-link the crime with community as the whole community cannot be made responsible for actions of few. Unfortunately, we are unable to do this delinking and we always carry stereotypes by linking many such things together.
These attacks have also created panic among African people and images and memories of violence tend to create stereotypes about the community as a whole. But we on both sides need to recognize that the entire community, country should not be regarded as opposing due to wrong actions of some. We, on both sides, have to realise that there are good and bad mindsets everywhere and we together will have to bring the change. Indians and Africans will together have to challenge hatred and stereotypes and revive the bond, the values that our countries stand for.
We the people of India and Africa will have to reach out to each other, find ways to collaborate more and more to know and to understand each other, to participate and march with each other and to live like a family that we are.
Founder-Mission Bhartiyam / Aaghaz-e-Dosti for Indo-Pak Friendship, Bharat-Nepal Paraspar Samvaad, Executive Member- South Asian Fraternity