DELHI — A disturbing video has gone viral in India. It shows a mob viciously attacking a Nigerian man at a suburban Delhi mall. The attackers kick, punch and hit him with steel trash cans, chairs, bricks — pretty much anything they can lay their hands on.
The victim is 21-year old Nigerian student Endurance Amalawa — who is now lying on a hospital bed with bandages covering his head, arms and back. In the adjacent bed is his older brother Precious Amalawa. He has fewer injuries and is able to recount the ordeal.
He remembers entering the mall, buying some clothes and sitting down to eat at KFC before the mood suddenly changed.
"We got a message that people are attacking blacks and we had to leave that place," he recalls. "We went out and stopped an auto [rickshaw] but those people did not help us. Then we saw those Indians, almost 500 or more, they were carrying rods, bricks and many other things and they were shouting. I told my brother we have to run."
Their cries for help were ignored by police and everyone else. "We entered Levi’s shop and we begged those people to protect us but they pushed us out. And then those 500 or more people started using bricks to knock the glass and open the door," says Precious. "Just the two of us tried to stop them."
The attacks have sent shock waves through India’s African community.
"They took my brother out and started beating him. They used something like a rod or knife to stab me," he says. The attackers didn’t stop until the brothers became unconscious.
The assault occurred during a protest over the death of a local teenage boy due to an alleged drug overdose.
Manoj Kumar, a local resident, accuses African students of drug dealing and holds them responsible for the death.
Anti-racism protest in India — Photo: Bismillah Geelani/KBR
"These Nigerians are doing these things all the time," Kumar complained. "We are fed up with them. They park their cars in the middle of the road and drink and dance and make a lot of noise. If anyone objects to all this, they start fighting with them ... They are drug peddlers and they are leading our youth astray."
At least seven other African students have been targeted by violent mobs in and around Delhi recently. The attacks have sent shock waves through India’s African community.
Samuel Jack, president of the African Students’ Association, says the community is living in fear and many students are seriously considering going back to their home countries.
"We are not safe in this country, this is the point. African students are not safe," says Jack. "If you are an African you have no right to a fair hearing. If you are African, the entire legal system is against you purely because you are black. We feel so horrible and scared to even move on the streets in this country because you don’t know when the next attack will happen against you because you are so vulnerable."
It is very wrong to accuse the Indian population or India or the government of India of being either xenophobic or racist
There are about 30,000 African students in India. In recent years, attacks against them have increased across the country. Last year, a Congolese student was beaten to death by a mob in New Delhi.
Many Africans say they face insults and discrimination on a daily basis. The recent spate of attacks has also affected relations between African nations and India. A joint statement by all African ambassadors in India recently described the attacks as xenophobic and racially motivated, blaming the Indian government for failing to take measures to deter them.
In response, the Indian government has arrested five attackers and reassured the African community. But Indian officials insist the attacks are not racially motivated.
"These are very isolated attacks and behind every such attack that has taken place anywhere in the country there is a trigger," says Sheshadri Chari, a spokesperson for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. "Every attack is different and has a different trigger. It is very wrong to accuse the Indian population or India or the government of India of being either xenophobic or racist. These are very strong words, totally unacceptable and an unfortunate way of looking at these isolated incidents."
But it is not only Africans that have been the target of racial discrimination in India. People from India’s northeastern states also routinely experience racism and have been pushing for legislative reform.
Suhas Chakma, director of the New Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights, says the Indian government is in denial.
"When we talk about racism we believe only the white [people] can do it and we cannot. But today we commit the same crime and we still take the same Ostrich-like approach," Chakma, arguing the government chooses to bury its head in the sand.
"Racism exists in every society. The problem is when you do not recognize the existence of the problem."