India’s diplomatic downturn with Africa intensified on Sunday as the Ministry of External Affairs sent mixed signals on responding to the series of attacks on African nationals.
Though the Delhi police arrested five men for the series of attacks on African nationals on Thursday night, the African Students Association in India announced on Sunday that it would take out a ‘March for Justice’ rally in the national capital on Tuesday protesting against the attacks and demanding justice.
Responding to the announcement, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted, “I have asked Gen V.K. Singh MoS and Secretary (ER) Amar Sinha to meet African students who have announced demonstration at Jantar Mantar.”
However, later on Sunday, Gen. Singh claimed in tweets that the attacks on Africans were not racially motivated.
“Had detailed discussion with Delhi Police and found that media blowing up minor scuffle as attack on African nationals in Rajpur Khurd (neighbourhood in South Delhi where a mob targeted several African nationals on Friday),” Mr Singh said in a tweet. “Why is media doing this? As responsible citizens let us question them and their motives,” he said.
Singh’s tweets criticised
Gen. Singh’s tweets prompted sharp criticism with opposition parties and the Broadcast Editors Association calling it “absurd” and “irresponsible”, while African students said they disagreed with his comments.
Terming the recent attacks as “racist”, South African envoy Malose William Mogale said he believed the Indian government would deal with such incidents. Speaking to a private television channel, Mr Mogale said, “It’s racist attacks. But it is not government policy. It is people who might want to tarnish the image of the country, India, to be portrayed to the world that it is the country where there is an emerging trend of racism and more foreigners are not allowed.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Ishwar Singh said police had arrested five men on Sunday for the attacks on several Africans on Thursday night. “Babu, Om Prakash, Ajay, Kunal and Rahul have been arrested on charges of causing hurt and wrongful confinement,” he said.
Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Nupur Prasad said the victims could not identify any of the suspects and the police zeroed in on them with the help of local intelligence.
Police intensified the probe on Sunday after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took up the issue with Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung.
“Racism toward (the people of) African descent is not acceptable at any cost in the twenty-first century,” a letter from the African Students Association in India said while informing the Delhi Police of its plans for a “March for Justice” which will demand an end to “infraction of human rights” of African nationals.
An African diplomat said the attacks over the last few days are casting a shadow on the high profile visits from India that will begin from Monday with the visit of Vice President Hamid Ansari to Morocco and Tunisia and include visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi later in the year to Mozambique and South Africa.