At least five Indians accused of assaulting Africans in New Delhi have been arrested after African diplomats urged the Indian government to ensure the safety of their nationals living in the country.
India’s Interior Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday condemned the attacks and asked the city police to take strict action against the perpetrators.
A Delhi deputy police commissioner, Ishwar Singh, however, dismissed the idea that the recent spate of attacks targeting Africans were racially motivated, insisting the violent crimes were “isolated incidents”.
Singh said on Sunday that there was “no element of racism” following Thursday’s attacks when six Africans were beaten across New Delhi’s Mehrauli neighbourhood.
Spoke to CP Delhi regarding the incident of physical assault against certain African nationals in New Delhi. Such incidents are condemnable.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) May 29, 2016
“It’s not as if there’s a public movement against African nationals,” he told NDTV, a privately run Indian TV channel, before adding that the attacks happened “at different locations, at different times and for different reasons”.
Nigerian national Kenneth Igbinosa, a local priest, told NDTV he was hit with a cricket bat by a group of men as he returned home with his wife and four-month-old son on Thursday.
Another two people also alleged they were beaten with cricket bats, NDTV added.
The attacks come less than a week after a Congolese teacher was bludgeoned to death after an argument over hiring an auto-rickshaw taxi.
Following the murder, Mahesh Sharma, India’s tourism and culture minister, stirred controversy by saying it was unfair to paint India as an unsafe country, quipping that “such incidents happen in other parts of the world too.
“India is a large country and such incidents will give a bad name to India. It is an unfortunate incident. However, even Africa is not safe,” Sharma told local IANS news agency.
‘Pervading climate of fear’
In a rare show of unity, a group of African ambassadors said their nationals were living in a “pervading climate of fear and insecurity”.
They warned they would recommend their governments do not send students to India until safety conditions improve, following a string of what they said were unpunished racial attacks.
Thousands of people from African countries study and work in India but several incidents have raised concerns of racist violence and discrimination.
In 2013, a Nigerian national was killed by a mob in the tourist state of Goa, with a state minister later calling Nigerians a “cancer”.
Delhi’s former law minister was also accused in 2014 of harassing African women after he led a vigilante mob through an area of the capital, accusing them of being prostitutes.