– from Michelle Faul
— JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Nigeria’s foreign ministry has called in India’s top diplomat to protest attacks on African students and demand arrests and prosecutions of perpetrators, Nigeria’s official news agency said Thursday.
Mobs have repeatedly attacked Africans in a New Delhi suburb in recent days after rumors that Nigerians had kidnapped a local boy who then died. Police initially arrested five Nigerian men but quickly released them for lack of evidence.
Thousands of Africans are staying away from classes fearing more attacks, the Association of African Students in India said.
India’s High Commissioner Nagabushana Reddy told Nigerian foreign ministry officials that five people have been arrested and police are searching for two more suspects, the News Agency of Nigeria reported.
The agency quoted permanent secretary Olushola Enikanolaiye as saying similar attacks have occurred against Nigerians in the past and that Nigeria wants “diligent prosecution” to act as a deterrent.
India’s high comissioner did not respond to a request for comment.
Nine Nigerians were attacked, including five wounded and two hospitalized with undisclosed injuries, Nigeria’s presidential assistant on foreign affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said Wednesday.
“Students around the country are standing in solidarity by staying away from classes and not going out at all because tensions are high and we fear we could be attacked somewhere else,” said Ezeugo Nnamdi Lawrence, coordinator of the Association of African Students in India.
Indians routinely perceive Africans as either prostitutes or drug dealers, making rampant racism a daily battle for the thousands of Africans who study and work there.
The African students’ association said it had no idea how many Africans study in India but that 7,000 follow its Facebook page. It posted a police phone number for students to call when they need to go out for an emergency.
Samuel T. Jack, president of the students’ association, said they were speaking to the police commissioner and their embassies to help reduce tensions.
While Nigerian and Indian officials said the situation had calmed Thursday, Jack said: “We have instructed (students) to remain at home, pending security being provided, because the community is still aggressive and attacking Africans.”
Similar demands were made last year after a Congolese student was fatally attacked in a dispute over hiring an auto-rickshaw in New Delhi. Three men were arrested and face murder charges, but India’s legal system moves so slowly it could be years before a trial decides their fate.
Associated Press writer Muneeza Naqvi contributed to this report from New Delhi.