ABUJA: Amid attacks on Africans in India, the Indian community in Nigeria today voiced support for Nigerians living in the country saying such a trend was "disturbing" as Africans never mistreat foreigners. Asserting that the conception about Africa and Africans among many Indians is incorrect, the Indians living in Nigeria have strongly condemned the attacks on Nigerians in Greater Noida.
"I was deeply disturbed by the attacks on the Nigerian students in India. But I feel Indians mistreat the Africans anyway. Their conception about Africa and Africans is wrong. There has never been a case where an African has mistreated a foreigner in their country," said Arunraj Muruganandam, who is based in Lagos for the last 15 years.
"The whole fact that we somehow feel we are superior to them is very uncomforting. Even when I first went from Nigeria, there were racist jokes played on me...I feel the Indians apart from those who have lived in Africa will never treat the Africans well," he told PTI over phone. Asked if he ever felt discriminated or harassed in Nigeria, the 25-year-old mechanical engineer hailing from Chennai said, "Never. I have felt more at home here."
Resource-rich Nigeria is a major trading partner of India having footprints of many leading Indian companies including Tata and Bharti Airtel. While over 35,000 Indians live in the East African country, around 30,000 Nigerians travel to India for education, medical tourism and business.
Nigerian students were attacked by several people during a candle-light march for a 17-year-old Indian boy, who died of suspected drug overdose last week in Greater Noida. The boy's parents alleged that the foreigners had kidnapped him and given him drugs which led to his death.
51-year-old Sanjeev Purwar, who has been staying in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, for over two decades, said when Indians are troubled or assaulted due to apartheid in the US, the UK or Australia all countrymen raise their voice in unison. "But why don't we feel the same angst when such incidents take place in our own country against outsiders? Why we can't tolerate (the difference in race) and become violent? This is not our culture," said Purwar, an engineer.
"At a time when Indians are being accepted globally, why are we unable to lead with an example? Every society in the world has a different culture and we must learn to appreciate it," he said. Purwar, who hails from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh and stays in Abuja with his wife, said incidents like these do not auger well for the image of the country and particularly its diaspora who may have to "pay the price" for it. He also called for the media to exercise caution in covering of such events, saying repeatedly showing pictures and videos of violence may not have an impact in India, but outside the country "it may create ripples".
"Nigerians are mostly good people. When you repeatedly show such pictures, some people who are short-tempered may react. The media should have a discussion on such incidents but should not show pictures," he said. Purwar recalled how Indians living in Nigeria were harassed back in 2013 after a Nigerian was reportedly killed in Goa. "It was one rare such happening here," he said.
Another Indian-origin man Gulrez Singh, who is based in Port Harcourt in the southern part of the country, said he has sympathy for the Nigerians and felt embarrassed over the unfortunate incidents taking place in India. Singh, whose family is based in Chandigarh, attributed such attacks to the "backwards mentality" of some people.
"The thinking of some Indians is backwards and racist...A random black man automatically becomes a drug lord. This needs to stop but how to make people aware of it I do not know," he told PTI. Nigeria had yesterday called in the Indian High Commissioner in Abuja to register its protest over the attacks on its nationals in India and sought "diligent prosecution" against the perpetrators.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also assured Parliament of a fair probe into the assault on Nigerians. The Indian Cultural Association in Nigeria, in a letter to India's High Commissioner to Nigeria B N Reddy on Wednesday, categorically condemned the incidents.
"We bring to place on record our condemnation towards this incident which happened in Noida, Delhi (our national capital). Sir, we are staying in Nigeria for many years. Some of us have spent here over 50 years and we never faced this kind of problem any time," the letter said. "On behalf of the entire Indian community, we wish to convey our complete condemnation towards this incident. We expect that the same should be conveyed to Ministry of External Affairs vehemently and properly," the association said.
It has also called on the Ministry of External Affairs to issue an appropriate advisory to the schools, colleges and general public in India, stating that "your own countrymen are respected in these African countries always and such incidents and unruly behaviour may change their perspective towards us."
"And above all, taking the law into hands may not solve the problem. It should be tackled within the legal framework of the country," the letter said.