India said on Monday it is "unfortunate" that a criminal act triggered following the death of a young Indian student under suspicious circumstances has been termed as "xenophobic and racial" by the African envoys.
Responding to sharp reaction by African envoys over the attacks on Nigerian students, the External Affairs Ministry listed out various steps taken by the government, which had condemned the attacks as "unacceptable", and said investigations on the death of Indian teenager and the subsequent incident by local authorities are ongoing.
In a strong reaction to attacks on African nationals in the national capital region, heads of African missions in India have termed the incidents as "xenophobic and racial" while alleging that the government took no "known, sufficient and visible" deterrent action.
Denouncing the attack on Nigerian nationals in Greater Noida, the envoys agreed to call for an independent investigation by the Human Rights Council as well as other human rights bodies, and also to comprehensively report the matter to the Commission of the African Union.
In a release, the External Affairs Ministry said, "We have seen the statement by the Eritrean Ambassador to India, who is also the Dean of the African Head of Missions, apparently issued on their behalf. It is unfortunate that a criminal act triggered following the untimely death of a young Indian student under suspicious circumstances has been termed as xenophobic and racial."
Noting that the government had condemned and described as "unacceptable" the incident of attack on a few Nigerian nationals in Greater Noida, it said the significance attached to addressing the matter is reflected in the detailed statement by the External Affairs Minister (EAM) and the discussion in the Parliament.
"Following EAM's conversation immediately after the incident with the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, local authorities expeditiously arrested suspects. They registered an FIR and are investigating the matter comprehensively.
"Local authorities have also taken measures to strengthen safety and security of Nigerian nationals. Coordination meetings have been held by local police in Delhi as well as Greater Noida, with African nationals," it said.
The ministry has further sensitised local authorities towards ensuring safety and security of Africans in general and African students in particular, it said, adding that three Nigerian nationals treated in hospital for injuries have been discharged.
The government is committed to ensuring safety and security of all foreign nationals in India, including African nationals, who remain our valued partners and strong Indian institutions are adequate to deal with aberrations that represent act of a few criminals, the ministry asserted.
It may be noted that a subsequent report of assault on a Kenyan national has been withdrawn and the government has been informed by Kenyan High Commission that the concerned Kenyan national, whose tourist visa has expired, is returning to Kenya, the release said.
Nevertheless, the Kenyan High Commission has expressed appreciation for prompt response by local police authorities on her complaint, it added.
The press release by African envoys dated March 31, the African envoys, who recently held a "special" meeting on the incidents growing incidents of attack on African nationals, said they expected a strong condemnation of the attacks at the highest political level, both nationally and locally, indicating their disappointment over lack of response from the Prime Minister and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, it said.
The statement read: "As regards the recent unfortunate incident in Greater Noida, the African Heads of Mission strongly condemn the incident and express their deep concern and also take note that these reprehensible events, both outstanding and unresolved cases against Africans, were not sufficiently condemned by the Indian authorities. The meeting unanimously agreed that those reaccumulated attacks against Africans are xenophobic and racial in nature."
In their joint statement, the African Heads of Mission said they reviewed previous such incidents of attacks on African nationals "and concluded that no known, sufficient and visible deterring measures were taken by the Government of India".
The attack on four Nigerian students took place on March 27 night in Greater Noida, some 40 km from the Indian capital, following protests over the death of a Class 12 student of a residential colony there due to drug overdose. Some people who were holding a candle-light vigil for the student attacked the Nigerians, suspecting them of drug-running.
Meanwhile, the Association of African students in India said it is "completely in support of the moves by the Dean Head of African missions in India."
"We are totally in support in calling for an independent investigation, and also to take india to UN Human Right council. In addition we also call for a complete withdrawer of support from India by all the African countries in all international forums," Samuel T. Jack, President, AASI, said in a statement on Facebook.