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The Migration of Fear

 

Nagayaki Florence, a 25-year-old woman from Uganda, was stabbed to death in Kothanur on Thursday.


The incident occurred around midnight when a fight broke out between the victim and Ishan, a B. Tech student, said police. According to the Head Constable of the Kothanur olice Station, Balu, the two were fighting over the exchange of money when Florence was stabbed.


“The primary suspect and perpetrator of the crime, Ishan, has been arrested,” said Balu. “We also suspect three others who were involved in the murder, but they are yet to be captured.”
Balu said Florence was in the country as a student.


In recent years, a number of such incidents relating to students from African nations have been reported in the country.


According to the Institute of International Education, 2,047 Sudanese and 1,990 Nigerian students moved to India in 2015-16. The Association of African Students in India (AASI) reports that more than 2,000 students from African countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Congo, Ivory Coast and Uganda live as students in Bengaluru alone.


Incidences of racially-charged attacks against African students and workers have begun to grab people’s attention of late. In June 2013, Wandoh Timothy, a citizen of Chad who had been working in the Banaswadi, Bengaluru for over 10 years, was assaulted by 12 men who called him racist slurs, hit him on the head and gut with large stones, and left him bleeding on the road. He suffered severe injuries and was hospitalized.


In February last year, a car driven by a Sudanese national accidentally ran over a local, killing him. Afterwards, a 21-year-old Tanzanian woman, completely unrelated to the accident, was caught in the crossfire that ensued. Despite being of an entirely different nationality from the accused driver in the accident, she was forced out of her car, beaten repeatedly and stripped of her clothes. The AASI reported that the mob went on to search for more African nationals living within the city. The woman managed to get away and inform the concerned authorities after which protests erupted.


The AASI began to mobilize in 2010 under the leadership of Tumwebaze Alicon Aut, a student of Delhi University. The organization partnered with the African Students Union in India (ASUI) and began working towards preventing bigotry and violence against students of African descent.
According to AASI’s website, its mission is to “Promote the collective interests of African students in India, and encourage, stimulate and create opportunities for interaction, exchange of ideas and active participation in society.”
Such instances have resulted in a general sense of fear among African students, and other black visitors and workers, living in the city. Bokor S. Moussa, president of AASI Bangalore, explains that African students have more concerns about moving into the city following the spreading of such news. He says, “Students need to feel safe when moving into a new city, but such racially charged attitudes scare them from taking such risks.” Moussa, who hails from Chad, hopes that this sense of fear will not last long. “We will work together for acceptance. We just need to understand each other’s cultures.”


Nora Cosmos,who was born to a Nigerian father and an Indian mother, believed that the city she grew up in, Owerri— capital of Imo State in Nigeria- was just a second home. In 2015, she got accepted to Azim Premji University in Bangalore as an economics student and hoped to finally settle into the Indian culture, only to be further disillusioned about her identity. “It’s just the way some people look at you. It’s not an explicit sense of hate; it just makes you feel like you don’t belong, like you stick out from the crowd,” Nora explains, almost a year into living in Bengaluru.


According to Samuel Adepoju, a former student of Suresh Gyan Vihar University, Rajasthan, Africans also face other kinds of discrimination. “Everything from tuition to mess food is overpriced for us. Unless we are able to take care of ourselves, we are at a great risk of being conned by the authorities themselves,” he said.


The AASI and the Alternative Law Forum (ALF) worked toward establishing an African Students Legal Cell. According to their webpage, it was established by ‘like-minded lawyers in the state to provide legal support to students from African countries studying in Karnataka.’ Darshana Mitra, an advocate working for the cell explains, “The issue goes beyond just the attacks. It is a systemic problem in the Indian immigration process that African students are lured into the country only to be abandoned after.”


David Edwards, a volunteer at the cell who is a student himself, believes that legal assistance is crucial when it comes to the issue. “We need to find common ground for these foreign students and the authorities. The legal cell is a place they can call whenever they are in need.”


African nationals come to the country in search of an environment where they are free to learn, socialise and explore. However, rising xenophobic sentiments in India drive them away before they can even begin to settle in. Students such as Nora and Samuel explain that news of racial attacks such as the one on Thursday fill with a sense of fear. But the number of African students only continues to increase as time goes on. The least India could do is reward them for their resilient spirits with a place they can call home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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