(This was originally written in Malayalam and appeared in Azhimukham.com)
To all my loving Tanzanian and other African friends residing in Bangalore, I write this from Kichankani in Tanzania with a sense of remorse, shame and disdain:
I arrived in Tanzania in February 2012. Since then Tanzania has been my home till date. A home so close to my heart that not even for a moment have I felt a tinge of home-sickness that would have propelled me back home to India.
Married to a spouse whose job as a night-manager here ensures that most nights I’m all alone in a land totally alien to me, not once have I felt scared or insecure. In our house in Namang where Swahili labourers dwell, the sense of security I experienced on all the nights spent alone with Pachu is something which Kerala has never been able to give me.
In Ferry or in Dalla Dalla or even in busy Saba Saba where there’s no place for even a needle to fall, no prying hands or legs have come my way trying to finger my body. Walking through deserted fields or muddy paths has never been a scary experience for me. That’s the kind of security I experience here.
Standing amidst this sense of security in Tanzania, I now write with a deep sense of anguish, pain, anger and humiliation at the growing sense of insecurity among African students residing in India.
India is the place where I was born and brought up. The recent incident involving the molestation of a Tanzanian student in Bangalore is the worst face of the inhuman racial prejudice with which many Indians have always treated and continue to treat people of African descent.
As an Indian, it is with a deep sense of guilt that I apologize wholeheartedly for the humiliation and the mental and physical trauma that you had to undergo.
It is not a mere coincidence that our African friends fell prey to unprovoked assaults at a time when the entire country is raging in its fight for justice over the death of Rohith Vemula who committed suicide at the Hyderabad Central University only because he was born a Dalit.
In 2014, African students from Gabana and Burkina Faso were attacked with iron rods carried by assailants shouting “Bharat Mata ki Jai” at the Delhi Metro Railway Station. The hapless students were totally at a loss and couldn’t even react with the police present at the scene as mere spectators.
A year ago, a mob led by the Delhi Law Minister with active support from policemen not even in their official uniforms had waylaid a group of Nigerian and Ugandan students and showered them with racial abuses. Nothing much happened other than a few mainstream dailies reporting on the racial attacks persons of African descent face in India.
The intensity of the racial attacks and humiliation that African students face in India sheds light on the hypocrisy of the Indian populace. India is now becoming home to a social standard of life where fellow humans are treated as dirt and outcastes.
India has always been a place where a guest is always judged by his or her skin tone or caste. Even the types of plates on which the guests are served food are decided by these superfluous standards.
India is home to khap panchayats which decree the rape of girls or women as a deterrent for breaking age-old caste rules. She is home to grama panchayats which order the stripping naked of dalits and tribals and branding them as criminals for no fault of theirs. She is ruled by people who endorse all such rulings by the khap or the grama panchayats citing tradition.
India is also home to those who impale a protesting dalit or adivasi woman’s vagina with stones and mud.
India is home to a public conscience which roots for throwing an escaping victim who tries to board a bus back into the clutches of an irate mob out to mete instant justice.
She is home to scores of women who have to wait till night to relieve themselves due to lack of basic sanitation facilities, only to be physically mauled and hung on the branches of a nearby tree.
India is the land of teachers who beat students to a pulp till such time they vomit, all for unknowingly eating from an upper-caste fellow-student’s lunch-box.
She is the land of honour killings where entire lower-caste villages have been torched in the name of loving an upper-caste girl.
The sad truth is that I harbour no false hopes of my India ever being able to treat its dark-skinned guests fairly when she is unable to be fair to her own dark-complexioned children.
I hereby express my unconditional support and understanding for all the humiliation, rejection and abuse that you, my dearest African friends, have to undergo in India.
It was just a while ago that Delhi had hosted a high-level political summit attended by all top African leaders. India which played big brother to all mutual growth and development Indo-African policies are responsible for all the African students residing in India.
They came to India reposing faith in her. At least now, I sincerely hope the government wakes up to its obligation in tackling and containing all the racial and inhuman attacks they are subject to.
In solidarity from Kichankani Library , Dar-es-salam, Tanzania