Police staged a flag march, filed cases against nearly 600 people for rioting and booked 44 people for attempt to murder on Tuesday to contain escalating tension between Africans and locals in Greater Noida that led to mob attacks on `Nigerians’ on Monday .
The five arrests they made on Monday night, reported by TOI on Tuesday , were followed by a formal complaint from the Nigerian Welfare Association on Tuesday morning. The attacks on the Africans began circulating, prompting the Centre to take up the matter with the UP government.
Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj asked the state government to conduct an in vestigation into the incidents, which the MEA spokesperson described as “deplorable”. He said Swaraj had spoken to UP CM Yogi Aditya Nath, who had promised a quick and “fair” investigation. “Law enforcement authorities of the district have made arrests and are investigating… They are also taking steps to keep the situation under control.”
Meanwhile, minister of state for external affairs M J Akbar met the acting high commissioner of Nigeria and assured her of action.
Earlier, an African student, Sadiq Bello, in a desperate appeal, tweeted to Swaraj, “@SushmaSwaraj as an international student in Noida, you need to act fast as living for us in Noida is becoming a life threatening issue.”
The African Students Association asked all African students in Noida and Greater Noida to remain indoors until better security is provided. Bello’s appeal came after African students were horribly beaten up by residents of Greater Noida. Local residents even demanded that all Africans living as tenants in residential colonies should be asked to vacate 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.
The Association of African Students in India has urged the government to conduct a fair investigation into the attacks.They also threatened to call for a total boycott of universities in India if steps were not taken to ensure their safety .
Members of the association pointed out that Nigeria had a large population of Indians, who have not complained of any ill-treatment. “Nigeria is home to around 1.2 million Indians. We give them the best of hospitality . So we ask the ex ternal affairs ministry to take proactive measures and stop (the attacks). Our lives are not safe here anymore. If this continues, we shall go for a total boycott (of universities in India),” said Plesidoe Okuguni, a student and a member of the association.
Officials said the members were also taking legal counsel to register a counter FIR against the allegations of cannibalism levelled against some students in Greater Noida after Khari went missing from the NSG Black Cats Enclave. The boy was later found in a semiconscious state, after which he was brought home. He died the next day .
This is the second time in two years that African students have become victims of dreadful prejudice in India.Last year too, MEA had to intervene in a similar matter.MOS V K Singh had then conducted some awareness building meetings with local resident groups. But clearly that government initiative never went anywhere after the spotlight shifted from that event.Last year Swaraj had said, “I assure our African friends that institutional mechanisms would be put in place to ensure such incidents do not recur. India will continue to remain a country where they will always feel welcome.”
Police said, on Monday , a breakaway group of protesters had chased one Nigerian into the Ansal Plaza, a mall near Pari Chowk, during protests demanding the arrest of African students. Residents accuse the African students of causing the death of Khari, who passed away at a private hospital last Saturday .
A video showed Endurance Amarawa, 21, a Noida International University student, being dragged on the ground and beaten up by the mob with sticks and chairs. Endurance is being treated at a private hospital in Noida. “Four people who have been assaulted during the attack are Nigerians while one is from Congo,” said Umar Najeeb, coordinator, Association of African Students in India. “It was an attack on our community . We have advised community members to stay indoors for three days.”
Najeeb said seven Africans had been hospitalised but many more had been assaulted by local residents. The police had videographed the Pari Chowk protest and arrested five locals -Abhishek Kumar, Shyam Lohia, Anil Chauhan, Ravinder and Vipin Khari.They face charges of criminal assault and attempt to murder, among others.
The district magistrate called a meeting of the RWAs and African community where it was decided that an orientation programme and regular interaction between the communities would be ensured to encourage mutual understanding.