Nigerians in Goa: Are we ignoring racism while blaming drugs?
Is the Goan state government acting in a racist manner by targeting Nigerians living in the state and accusing them of furthering narcotics trade?
The Goan government may have conveniently thrust the blame on Nigerian nationals for the drug trade and a recent protest in the state over a murder, but according to a Nigerian national in Mumbai, it is merely part of persistent racial discrimination the community faces.
"In my country nobody, especially Indian, has ever been ejected from a home, called names or accused of a particular crime."
"I felt being married to a daughter of this country would given me the privileges of an Indian but I was disappointed," Sambo Davis Tekena, a garment trader, told Sagarika Ghose on the CNN-IBN show 'Face the People'.
He said that the violent protests on a national highway in Goa on 31 October following the murder of a youth was merely an outburst of anger against an Indian system that constantly discriminated against them.
Pointing out that the murder allegedly took place near a police check post, Tekena said,"You have to address the issue what led to the anger... I am not defending the protest. The police has to maintain law and order in the first place. If the boy was Indian I don't think the police would have watched it happen."
He also claimed that the Goan government and ministers were attempting to divert attention from the murder by labelling members of the community as drug traders.
"Instead of sticking to the issue of murder the issue has become one of drugs," Tekena said.
He has a point. Even while denying racism, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said yesterday, "It is not racism. If you see earlier history, you will see that more Nigerians are involved in drugs. So people are seeing it that way."
Other state legislators have also been quoted as making racist comments following the protest by members of the community with one minister claiming members of the Nigerian community were a 'cancer' and another claiming that they were 'pumped with drugs'.
Goan social activist Oscar Rebello who was also on the show's panel said that members of the Nigerian community, the state police and the Goan community had failed to act responsibly after the murder of the youth on 31 October.
"The reaction to this incident has been so un-Goan to my mind. In the social media, newspapers there has been this racial beast that has come out. This is now in hindsight and that is condemnable," he said, adding that only a small section of Goans had acted in a racial manner.
The social activist said that the local government and residents were going overboard in targeting members of the community over the drug trade in the state.
"I will agree that we cannot say that only Nigerians are involved in the drug trade. If we need to end the drug trade in Goa the Goan needs to go to war against the Goan," Rebello said.
Rebello said that the outburst by members of the Nigerian community was wrong no matter what their grievances.
"They had no right to hijack the road, No right to push around the cops. That cannot be defended under any circumstances. Many Goans are now reacting to that," he said.
However, Sanjay Srivastava, a professor of Sociology at the Institute of Economic Growth backed Tekena and said that the protest in Goa by members of Nigerian community was the result of a long history of brutal discrimination.
"There is no evidence that Nigerians or any other group is more involved in criminal activities. That is a red herring," Srivastava said.
He pointed out that the redressal mechanisms in India had failed to address the problems of the Nigerian community. If Indians had faced similar treatment in any other country then Indian society would immediately label that country as being racist, Srivastava said.
"This is not a question of two wrongs making a right. We have a history of creating moral panic especially around the issue of race in the case of non-white people," Srivastava said.
Tekena said that all the community was seeking was equality in the way in which the Indian system treated them.
"Accept us as equals. We may be a different colour but in our veins is the same red blood," he said.
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