New Delhi: With African heads of mission demanding strong action from the Indian government in the wake of the murder of a Congolese national here, Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh was deputed on Wednesday to allay the concerns voiced by the envoys.
"I have asked my colleague General VK Singh to meet the heads of mission of African countries and assure them of the Indian government`s commitment to the security of African nationals," External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted.
"VK Singh will also hold meetings with African students in metro cities to assure them of their safety and security," she said.
Masonda Ketada Olivier, 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 of south Delhi.
Two of the accused have been arrested while the third is on the run.
On Tuesday, African heads of mission held a meeting here regarding the incident following which they issued a statement seeking strong action from the government.
The heads of mission stated that they were being left with little option but to advise their respective governments against sending new students to India.
"The Group of African Heads of Mission have met and deliberated extensively on this incidence in the series of attacks to which members of the African community have been subjected to in the last several years," the statement by Ambassador of Eritrea Alem Tsehage Woldemariam, who is also dean of the Group of African Heads of Mission, said late Tuesday.
"They strongly condemn the brutal killing of the African and calls on the Indian government to take concrete steps to guarantee the safety and security of Africans in India," it said.
Woldemariam said 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".
He 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 including appropriate programmes of public awareness that will address the problems of racism and Afro-phobia in India," he said.
The African envoys also said they would stay away from this year`s Africa Day celebrations being organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) on May 26.
In a separate tweet on Wednesday, Sushma Swaraj said the government would launch a sensitisation programme to reiterate that such incidents against foreign nationals embarrass the country.
"When I came to know about the unfortunate killing of a Congo national in Delhi, we directed stringent action against the culprits," she said.
"I would like to assure African students in India that this was an unfortunate and painful incident involving local goons."
Swaraj said she has asked Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najib Jung to take steps and ensure that this case was tried by a fast track court.
"Jung has assured me that he will take immediate action in this regard," she said.
In a separate statement, the external affairs ministry described the death of Olivier as "very unfortunate" and said that "we condemn the incident unequivocally".
It said Amar Sinha, secretary (economic relations) in the ministry of external affairs, who handles relations with Africa, met a group of African heads of mission, including the dean of the African diplomatic corps.
He explained to them that immediately on receipt of information on the incident his ministry got in touch with Delhi Police, which acted promptly.
"Two suspects have already been arrested while one is on the run. We will ensure that justice is done and stringent punishment given to those involved in the attack," the statement said.
It said that Sinha also pointed out to the envoys that all criminal acts should not be seen as racially motivated.
"Thousands of African students continue to pursue their education in India without any issues. Government of India deeply values its relations with foreign students, particularly those from Africa with which India has had a historically close relationship," it said.
"We will ensure that African students continue to find a welcome home in India and such unfortunate incidents do not recur," it added.