On Sunday, The Indian Express posted a video on Twitter showing a mob of Africans – seemingly mostly Nigerians – surrounding Indian police and protesting the arrest of 3 Nigerians who were said to be overstaying their visas.
The police held on to their lathis (bamboo stick batons) while one Nigerian woman kept shouting “We’re not going anywhere!” and others made unidentifiable protests while obstructing the police.
The scene was at Neb Sarai, a locality in South Delhi. The policemen were a narcotic cell team sent to complete the deportation proceedings of the 3 Nigerian detainees. In the middle of the ruckus, two of the detainees were able to escape.
The group of Africans reportedly comprised more than 100 men. The Deputy Commissioner of Police Chandan Chowdhary told local news, “The team was trying to bring them to the police station but suddenly, about 150-200 people from various African countries gathered there and obstructed the team. In the meantime, two of those detained managed to escape. One was successfully apprehended later.”
An officer who was with the cell team on the day of the incident further explained, “We have been instructed to initiate a drive against people who are staying illegally in the country. We have documents to prove their visa has expired or they have no visa, but locals started shouting at us. They attacked us and helped the two men flee. We only want to deport them as they are not studying or working here and are overstaying their visit.”
On the contrary, the locals claimed that the policemen were detaining people without a notice as well as harassing other Africans. They also refuted the allegations of attack, but instead claimed that they simply staged a protest.
Emmanuel, a 30-year-old student from Kenya gave his own account of the incident, “I was walking back home when I saw over 10 policemen trying to detain a few people. I got scared. Most of us get picked up for no reason. My friend and I asked the police team about it, but they started pushing us. We didn’t do anything. The police came twice a day and threatened everyone. Many of the immigrants are poor and can’t afford to extend visas. We wish someone would support us…”
Data from the South District Police of India reports that in the past 2-3 months, over 53 Africans have been detained and deported.
Nigeria and India have a long-standing, mutually beneficial relationship…
According to a 2020 report, there were about 50,000 Indians resident in Nigeria, mostly working in Indian/Indian-origin companies such as telecommunications service provider Airtel, Stallion Group and so on.
Meanwhile, as of 2013, there were said to be about 10,000 Nigerians in India, with the bulk of the population in Delhi and Bangalore. The number has certainly grown since then, though.
Additionally, India was said to be the leading pharmaceutical supplier to Nigeria and a leading medical destination for Nigerians. Consequently, many Nigerians travel to India to study medicine at tertiary level. Nigeria was also said to have met 10% of India’s energy needs.
Interestingly, Nigerians are some of the biggest consumers of Bollywood films. In the 2016 Africa-India solidarity forum, Zaharaddeen Muhammed spoke of how it was his penchant for Bollywood movies that made him interested in studying in the Asian subcontinent.
“I am a big fan of Bollywood… I did not come for the school because there are enough good universities back home. But I wanted to learn about this other culture and interact with the people here,” explained Zaharaddeen.
Unfortunately, he was sorely disappointed by the harsh racist treatment he received in India.
In 2016 alone, nearly 10 Africans were brutally attacked by Indians. One of them, a Congolese teacher named Masonda Kitanda Olivier even died from the attack. Police claimed the attacks were not racism-related, but many Africans felt otherwise.
Additionally, a 2019 BBC report shared how African women, mostly from Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda were often trafficked to India for sex.