Dear Prime Minister Modi,
Please Stop The Hate Crimes Against Africans Residing In India.
As the most influential Indian at the moment, I believe that you have what it takes to put a stop to the never-ending hate crimes directed at Africans residing in your great country.
On 27 March 2017, hundreds of Indians in Noida went on rampage attacking African students whom they accused of dealing in drugs. That was not the first time Africans have been assaulted in India. From Bangalore to Punjab to Noida to New Delhi, Africans have been racially abused on the streets, pelted with stones, stripped naked, beaten to coma and hacked to death.
We have been dehumanized, refused accommodation and when we walk through the streets of India, the hairs on the back our necks rise as we feel the hostility coming from the intense gaze of our Indian brothers and sisters.
Many of us have been stripped of our African names and rechristened “Habshis” as our first name and “Bander” as our surname. The violence inflicted on us has turned us to hermits because we now believe that a living African hermit in India is better off than a dead African in India.
Despite the assault over the years, the Indian government has done little to stem the racially motivated violence. The silence of the Indian government is deafening.
Evil prevails when men and women of goodwill remain silent in times of great moral conflict.
In the rare instances when government officials choose to speak out, their statements are often punctuated with the word “But” – “African students were attacked, but the government is seised of the matter”; “It was a criminal act, but it should not be construed as racial attacks”; “It is unfortunate to see Africans attacked, but India is the land of Gandhi and Buddha and we have fought consistently against racial discrimination”; “Some clashes took place, but the violence has been exaggerated by the media.”
Africa and India share a common history. We were colonized by a common oppressor and we were comrades in the war against imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism.
When India gained its independence from Britain in 1947, many African countries were motivated to fight for their own independence as we saw India’s freedom as the first crack in the ruthless British Empire.
Ten years later, Ghana was freed and a couple of years later most of the countries in the continent were freed from the shackles of the British and French colonialists. Your forerunner, Jawaharlal Nehru joined hands with our very own Kwame Nkrumah and Gamal Nasser to set up the Non-Aligned Movement to challenge the Western hegemony.
Are we to put this shared history aside because we have different skin tones? Absolutely not. We may have different shades of skin tones but in reality, we are all black/brown.
I need not remind you that the recognition of the equality of all races and mutual respect is one of the guiding principles of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Bilateral trade between Africa and India, which is valued at $72 billion, is at the heart of Afro-Indo relationship and you have played a key role in making this a reality.
However, Africa shouldn’t be viewed solely as a cash machine for Indian entrepreneurs. What is the point of seeing Africa as an investment destination while ignoring the cries of African students screaming “Why Is India So Racist Towards Us?
Your Excellency, you have shared your vision to make India a first-class country, however, India cannot be a truly first class country as long as it has third class black Africans and third class brown Indians discriminated because of the color of their skin.
Having the largest democracy and being a key pillar of the BRICS nation comes with responsibilities. You may want to give some thoughts to how India is viewed by the wider world. Is it that the country, which once had the moral courage to look Britain straight in the eye and tell her, “We have had enough of your racism,” is now following in the footsteps of its former colonial master?
Sir, nobody has the monopoly over violence. We now live in an age where news travels very fast. The images of Indians brutalizing their African brothers and sisters has been widely shared on social media.
As these images spread throughout the world and finally arrives at East Africa, which is home to over 3 million persons of Indian descent, it could only be a matter of time before a demagogue begins to stir up anti-Indian sentiments thereby putting these Indians in Diaspora at risk.
Some may try to justify the attacks on Africans in India by creating equivalence with the policies of Idi Amin who unjustly expelled Asians from Uganda in the 1970’s. Amin’s act was morally wrong and two wrongs don’t make a right.
I appreciate that it is difficult undoing the legacy of colonialism (which engraved a hierarchy of race) and the caste structure in India completely, but I plead with you to use your good offices to speak out and put measures in place to reduce the racial discrimination inflicted on black Africans and lower caste brown Indians. If there is anyone that can do it, it is you.
I end this letter by quoting the great Nehru: "The only alternative to coexistence is codestruction.”