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Attacks on Nigerian students: It's time the police force demonstrates efficiency and offers protection to Africans

Sadeeq Bello, a Nigerian student, made a desperate appeal to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday.

His plea came after a group of Nigerian students were attacked by a mob in Greater Noida. Four students sustained severe injuries in the attack. The local residents even demanded that all Africans living as tenants in residential colonies of Greater Noida should be asked to vacate the houses immediately. This outburst against the Africans came after five Nigerian students were picked by the police over the death of Class XII student Manish Khari due to suspected drug overdose.

True to her diplomatic style, Swaraj in a series of tweets, assured immediate action and even spoke to the newly appointed Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath about an fair and impartial investigation.

Many-a-times, Swaraj's prompt tweets have highlighted the Ministry of External Affairs' transparent way of handling diplomatic crisis, nevertheless, tweets alone cannot ensure on-ground safety. It is the efficiency of the state machinery that can manage to instill a feeling of security among its people, especially among the expatriate community. Assurances like those of Uttar Pradesh minister Siddharth Nath Singh's would remain mere lip service if the first-reaction team fails to take immediate action.

This, however, is not a one-off case. Last year, a group of African national students had held a protest at Jantar Mantar following the killing of a Congolese national and a string of other attacks on Africans in Delhi. Assuring increased police patrolling and sensitisation campaigns, Swaraj had said, "I assure our African friends that institutional mechanisms would be put in place to ensure that such incidents do not recur in future. India will continue to remain a country where they will always feel welcome.”

In February this year, Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed and his colleague Alok Madasani and an American, Ian Grillot, were injured in a shooting by Navy veteran Adam Purinton who was heard yelling, "Get out of my country!" at a bar in Olathe City, Kansas. Harnish Patel, an Indian American and an owner of a convenience store in Lancaster County, South Carolina, was shot dead in the front yard of his home. Hate crimes and racial attacks on Indians abroad have increased in the US, especially since Donald Trump was elected president. Following the attacks, Swaraj had informed Parliament that the Indian authorities have taken the issue of racial attacks to the top echelons of the US administration.

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri of Hindustan Times writes: "US law-and-order agencies and judicial bodies have, if anything, become more active in prosecuting hate groups and crimes. The Kansas shootings were notable that one of the victims was a white American who tried to intervene and that private online donations have covered the medical costs of the wounded."

With the rise in the number of racial attacks on Indians abroad, it is imperative that the police in India, demonstrate inefficiency and expediency while handling security issues related to expats back home. It is the efforts at the local level that will reflects on the government's ability to handle and quell such crisis. In the wake of these attacks, Association of African Students in India issued the following statement:

According to latest reports, the police have arrested seven locals and the Uttar Pradesh government has promised to investigate the incident. However, repeated attacks on Africans throw up a few questions:

1. Why did the police fail to control the mob? As this Nigerian points out why wasn't the police called in time to stop the ensuing violence?

2. Sadeeq Bello's tweet to Swaraj seemed like a desperate effort to seek security in a foreign country. Does it show the police's failure to ensure their protection?

3. The fact that the student association had to issue an advisory cautioning students not to step out of their homes reflects a deep distrust in the police force. What is the being done to dispel this feeling of alienation and helplessness?

4. Arresting local goons is not enough. How will the police ensure the protection of these foreign nationals?

5. Racial attacks are a reality for Indians abroad, what is the police doing to prevent such attacks on foreigners?

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Updated Date: Mar 28, 2017 20:11:17 IST