NEW DELHI: The death of a Congolese national here earlier this month is snowballing into a major controversy with the African diplomatic community on Tuesday deciding to stay away from this year's Africa Day celebrations and seeking strong action on the part of the Indian government.
"The Group of African Heads of Mission have met and deliberated extensively on this latest incidence in the series of attacks to which members of the African community have been subjected to in the last several years," said Eritrean Ambassador Alem Tsehage Woldemariam, who is also dean of the Group of African Heads of Mission, in a statement.
"They strongly condemn the brutal killing of this African and calls on the Indian government to take concrete steps to guarantee the safety and security of Africans in India," it said.
Masonda Ketada Oliver, 29, was mercilessly beaten by three youth around 11.30 p.m. on Friday after a verbal altercation over the hiring of an auto-rickshaw near Kishangarh village in Vasant Kunj area in south Delhi.
Oliver was hit on the head with a brick, leading to his death.
According to Woldemariam's statement, Oliver and his friend Samuel had gone to meet another friend, and while on their way back, he flagged down an auto-rickshaw which stopped a few metres away. However, as he tried to board it, three Indian men standing nearby boarded it. An argument ensued following which Oliver was thrashed.
"They pushed Oliver to the ground and kicked him in the face and abdomen repeatedly. One of the Indians picked up a large stone from the roadside and hit Oliver on the head," it said, while a passer-by who stopped to help was also beaten up while the attackers fled the scene when they saw that Oliver was unconscious.
Oliver was rushed to a private hospital where he was referred to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Trauma Centre but he died on the way.
Woldemariam stated that the African heads of mission here have noted with deep concern that "several attacks and harassment of Africans have gone unnoticed without diligent prosecution and conviction of perpetrators".
He said that given the climate of fear and insecurity in Delhi, "the African heads of mission are left with little option than to consider recommending their governments not to send new students to India, unless and until their safety can be granted".
"Accordingly, the Indian government is strongly enjoined to take urgent steps to guarantee the safety of Africans in India including appropriate programmes of public awareness that will address the problems of racism and Afro-phobia in India," he said, and called on the media, civil society, think tanks, research institutions, parliamentarians, politicians and community leaders to play major roles in addressing the stereotypes and prejudices against Africans in India.
As for the Africa Day celebrations being organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) on May 26 here, Woldemariam said that they have requested that the event be postponed, and the African nations have also decided not to participate in the celebrations, except for a cultural troupe from Lesotho.
"This is because the African community in India, including students, are in a state of mourning in memory of the slain African students in the last few years, including Oliver," it added.