New Delhi: The Indian government, seeking to woo the 54-nation African continent, was expected to answer some tough questions from the African diplomatic community who have decided to stay away from this year`s Africa Day celebrations in protest while seeking strong action on the part of the government over the murder of a Congolese national in the capital and other "attacks and harassment" of African students and others in various parts of the country.
Even as the Modi government wants more African students to come and study in India, African heads of missions, who met in emergency session Tuesday, said the climate of fear and insecurity in Delhi was forcing the African heads of mission " with little option than to consider recommending their governments not to send new students to India, unless and until their safety can be granted".
"The Group of African Heads of Mission have met and deliberated extensively on this latest incidence in the series of attacks to which members of the African community have been subjected to in the last several years," a statement by Ambassador of Eritrea Alem Tsehage Woldemariam, who is also dean of the Group of African Heads of Mission, said late Tuesday night.
"They strongly condemn the brutal killing of this African and calls on the Indian government to take concrete steps to guarantee the safety and security of Africans in India," it said.
Masonda Ketada Oliver, 29, was beaten to death by three youths around 11.30 p.m. on Friday after a verbal altercation over the hiring of an auto-rickshaw near Kishangarh village in Vasant Kunj area in south Delhi.
According to Woldemariam`s statement, Oliver and his friend Samuel had gone to meet another friend on that fateful day.
On the way back, the statement said, Oliver flagged an auto-rickshaw which stopped a few metres away from him. However, as he tried to board the auto-rickshaw, three Indian men standing nearby boarded it. An argument ensued following which Oliver was thrashed.
"They pushed Oliver to the ground and kicked him in the face and abdomen repeatedly," it stated.
"One of the Indians picked up a large stone from the roadside and hit Oliver on the head."
According to the statement, a passer-by who stopped to help the Congolese was also beaten up and the attackers fled the scene when they saw that Oliver was unconscious.
Oliver was rushed to a private hospital where he was referred to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Trauma Centre but he died on the way.
Woldemariam stated that the African heads of mission here have noted with deep concern that "several attacks and harassment of Africans have gone unnoticed without diligent prosecution and conviction of perpetrators".
In January this year, a mob in Bangalore allegedly attacked and stripped a Tanzanian girl after dragging her out of the car in which she was travelling along with her three friends. Her friends were also beaten up.
The incident took place after a woman was mowed down on the outskirts of the Karnataka capital on January 31.
Following this, a high-level team from New Delhi, including the high commissioner of Tanzania, went to Bangalore.
A senior police officer and some policemen were suspended and over 10 people arrested.
In his statement on Tuesday, Woldemariam said that given the climate of fear and insecurity in Delhi, "the African heads of mission are left with little option than to consider recommending their governments not to send new students to India, unless and until their safety can be granted".
"Accordingly, the Indian government is strongly enjoined to take urgent steps to guarantee the safety of Africans in India including appropriate programmes of public awareness that will address the problems of racism and Afro-phobia in India," he said.
He also called upon the media, civil society, think tanks, research institutions, parliamentarians, politicians and community leaders to play major roles in addressing the stereotypes and prejudices against Africans in India.
As for the Africa Day celebrations being organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) on May 26 here, Woldemariam said that the African group has requested that the event be postponed.
"They have also decided not to participate in the celebrations, except the cultural troupe from the Kingdom of Lesotho," the statement said.
"This is because the African community in India, including students, are in a state of mourning in memory of the slained African students in the last few years, including Oliver," it added.