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Demons, Drug Dealers and Prostitutes: Do Indians look down on Africans?

Through posters and slogans, African students have expressed their feelings on how the country is mistreating them

Image Source: bbc
  • Zaharaddeen Muhammed shares his sadness that not once has he been invited to an Indian’s home or has someone visited him
  • when Africans offer money, shopkeepers often check the money to determine whether it is a fake
  • AINSCA has decided to impose fines of Rs 1,000 on people from the community found to be wearing “inappropriate” clothes that includes shorts and singlets

Holding handwritten posters and shouting slogans, the African students have expressed their feelings on how the country has treated them.  Even after adopting the ‘Indian way of life’ and following the social norms, they are unable to fit in the society or to be exact, racism has blinded the people of India.

Zaharaddeen Muhammed, 27, a student of Noida International University said to Al Jazeera, “People often look at me as if I am different, and hard to be trusted,” the tall, softly spoken student explains. “I try to be friendly. I speak Hindi and always laugh. But when I offer biscuits to the neighbors’ children, they don’t accept.”

He said that his failure to interact with Indian people and learn their culture has made him doubt his decision to swap his university in Nigeria for a two-year master’s degree programme in chemistry at Noida International University. The daily derogatory comments, the questions about personal hygiene, the unsolicited touching of his hair and the endless staring don’t hurt him as much as the fact that he can’t interact with the people of the land. Being a big fan of Bollywood, he shares his sadness that not once has he been invited to an Indian’s home or has someone visited him.

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“My landlord is an extremely good person,” Zaharaddeen said to Al Jazeera. He points out that not all Indians have treated him badly and he doesn’t want to generalize. He further adds, “That would be a huge mistake. Because it is Indians often generalizing about all people from Africa that makes us feel unsafe.”

Zaharaddeen Muhammed, a master’s degree student from Nigeria living in India, speaks at the Africa-India Solidarity Forum in New Delhi Image Source: Aletta Andre/Al Jazeera

The attack on the female student from Tanzania earlier this year, in 2016, where she was beaten and stripped in Bangalore by an angry mob, in response to a fatal accident caused by a Sudanese student unknown to her had caused large gatherings and protests. Zaharaddeen shares his concern that it could have been him instead of her who was beaten for no fault.

He feels that some progress had been made after several community meetings with residents from African countries and their Indian neighbors and landlords.

Another student tells Al Jazeera that the people have been rude by showing their distrust and by treating them in an unfair manner. The shopkeepers often check the money to determine whether it is a fake and the landlords eagerly look for faults so that she can be drived out of the home.

Ibrahim Djiji Adam, a 25-year-old business student from Libya says that he has learned Hindi and even “dated an Indian girl”. This is how he says he realized that many Indians are racist among themselves.”We are often seen as demons, drug dealers or prostitutes,” Ibrahim said.

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The All India Nigeria Students and Community Association had decided to impose fines of Rs 1,000 on people from the community found to be wearing “inappropriate” clothes that includes shorts and singlets. They have changed their lifestyle to suit the given circumstances.

The Al Jazeera report also says that, Zaharaddeen does not drink or smoke, and has adjusted his lifestyle. He has classes from 10am to 4pm, eats lunch on campus, usually with other international students, and goes home afterwards with no contact with the outside world.

Though he is happy that so many people care about their welfare, Zaharaddeen says that he would not recommend a good friend from Nigeria to pursue their higher education in India as the purpose of learning another culture is not served.

-This report is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.




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  • Aparna Gupta

    Its totally unfair to treat them in unfriendly manner. Indians are known for their humble nature but this act disapproves it.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Racism is not only a crime, but it hurts the feelings of people! This is nothing but being shallow about one’s identity

Next Story

Spiritual Ideas Sore At The World Hindu Congress

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new -- when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

Government invites entries for first National CSR Awards VOA

At its best, speeches at the recently concluded World Hindu Congress echoed the soaring spiritual ideals evoked by Swami Vivekananda in Chicago 125 years ago.

Even Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsangchanalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), focused essentially on the need for unity and patience among Hindus while fighting obstacles, of which, he said, there would be many. The burden of excavating implied accusations in Bhagwat’s speech fell to his critics.

At the plenary session, the moderator requested speakers to address issues of conflict without naming the speakers or their organisations in the interest of harmony. Other speakers sought to unite the followers of all the great religions that took birth in India — Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Some of the speakers from Bhagwat to Swami Swaroopananda of the Chinmaya Mission, framed the issues before Hinduism in a moral paradigm. Ashwin Adhin, the Vice President of the Republic of Suriname, began his speech in chaste Hindi, later quoting cognitive scientist George Lakoff: “Facts matter immensely. But to be meaningful they have to be framed in terms of their moral importance.”

Buddhism relates sins to the characteristics one adopts. Pixabay

The dissonances, between the spiritual and the mundane, were to emerge later on the fringes of the seminars which were part of the Congress. Many of the delegates appropriated to themselves the mantle of a culture besieged by proselytising faiths. There were speakers who urged Hindus to have more children to combat their ‘dwindling population’. Posters warned Hindus of the dangers from ‘love jihad’ (Muslim men ‘enticing’ Hindu women).

In one of the sessions on the media, filmmaker Amit Khanna noted that religion had always played a prominent part in Indian cinema, starting with the earliest mythologicals. “Raja Harishchandra”, the first silent film, he said, was made by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913. He sought to reassure the audience on the future of Hinduism. “Over 80 percent of Indians are Hindus,” he said adding: “Hinduism has survived many upheavals for thousands of years. Hinduism has never been endangered.”

Other speakers, lacking spiritual and academic pedigrees, drew on an arsenal of simulated anguish and simmering indignation.

The nuances of history pass lightly over the ferociously devout and it took little effort to pander to an aggravated sense of historical aggrievement.

Swami Vivekananda used to stress upon the universal brotherhood and self-awakening. Wikimedia Commons

At one of the debates, the mere mention of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, elicited sniggers and boos. The speaker hinted at ‘Nehruvian socialism’ which had made the Indian economy a non-starter. He concluded with a coup de grace, to a standing ovation: “Nehru did not like anything Indian.”

The poet Rabindranath Tagore, who composed the Indian national anthem, had spoken of his vision of a country where the “clear stream of reason had not lost its way”. At some of the discussions, even the most indulgent observer would have been hard put to discern the stream of reason.

The image of a once great civilisation suppressed by a century of British rule and repeated plunder by invaders captured the imagination of many in the audience. Hanging above it all, like a disembodied spirit, was the so-called malfeasance of Nehru, the leader who had won the trust of Hindus only to betray them in the vilest manner.

These tortured souls would have been well advised to adopt a more holistic approach to Hinduism, and history, looking no further than Swami Vivekananda, who once said: “The singleness of attachment (Nishtha) to a loved object, without which no genuine love can grow, is very often also the cause of denunciation of everything else.”

The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures.

Historians have informed us that Nehru preferred his father’s intellect over his mother’s tradition but he was never contemptuous of religion. While he undoubtedly felt that organised religion had its flaws, he opined that it supplied a deeply felt inner need of human nature while also giving a set of values to human life.

In private conversations some delegates spoke of how their America-born children had helped persuade them to drop their pathological aversion to gays and lesbians. Despite their acute wariness of perceived cultural subjugation, the irony was obviously lost on them that Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code,(which criminalises gay sex) recently overturned by the Indian Supreme Court, is a hangover from the Victorian British era-embodied in the Buggery Act of 1533.

In the face of the upcoming elections in the US, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi’s decision to speak at the conference was a political risk. With a newly energised political Left, even the perception of being linked with “fascist” or sectarian forces could be political suicide in the critical November elections. Despite vociferous appeals to disassociate himself from the Congress, Krishnamoorthi chose to attend.

“I decided I had to be here because I wanted to reaffirm the highest and only form of Hinduism that I have ever known and been taught — namely one that welcomes all people, embraces all people, and accepts all people, regardless of their faith. I reject all other forms. In short, I reaffirm the teaching of Swami Vivekananda,” Krishnamoorthi said.

Given the almost pervasive abhorrence of anything remotely Nehruvian among a section of the delegates, it was a revelation to hear the opinion of Dattatrey Hosable, the joint general secretary and second-in-command in the RSS hierarchy. Speaking on the promise of a newly-resurgent India, Hosable said in an interview to Mayank Chhaya, a local journalist-author-filmmaker: “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new — when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”

Also Read: Triple Talaq Now Banned in India

The quote is from Nehru’s famous Tryst with Destiny speech delivered to the Indian Constituent Assembly on the midnight of August 14, 1947 — proof, if any is needed, that the force of Nehru’s ideas can transcend one’s disdain of him. (IANS)