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First, acknowledge the problem

A statement from the envoys also said that they had reviewed similar incidents from the past and noted that the Indian government had taken “no known, sufficient, and visible deterring measures” to tackle them.

First, acknowledge the problem

In a rather unfortunate development, the Heads of African Mission issued a statement last week, calling the recent spurt of attacks on expatriates from the continent in Greater Noida "xenophobic and racial" and sought an independent investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Council. A statement from the envoys also said that they had reviewed similar incidents from the past and noted that the Indian government had taken "no known, sufficient, and visible deterring measures" to tackle them. These are rather damaging claims for New Delhi, which wants to extend its economic influence on the continent.

The Centre, however, responded to these claims by suggesting that the attacks were not xenophobic and racial in nature, and instead recast them as stray criminal acts. For the record, the Centre did put out a detailed statement, discussed the episode in Parliament and ordered the Uttar Pradesh police to investigate the matter in a timely fashion. However, what is rather undeniable is the racist and xenophobic nature of these attacks. Allegations made that African nationals are disproportionately involved in drug trafficking, or accusations of cannibalism (a throwback to disturbing colonial attitudes) are deeply racial in nature.

Last year, a mob in Bengaluru assaulted, stripped and paraded a 21-year-old Tanzanian student, in addition to setting fire to her car. By all accounts, her only fault was that she happened to pass through the same neighbourhood, where an hour before, a Sudanese student had run over and killed a resident. What was particularly frightening about this incident was how the collective mob attacked a helpless woman based on her skin tone. These acts must be seen in the context of organised racism. Although the problem of racism is not limited to this country, the Indian state must acknowledge the nature of these violent acts. The first step towards resolving the problem is to acknowledge it. The second step is to ensure timely prosecution of those locals involved in such disturbing acts. Although the Greater Noida police have done the needful, past record suggests that the prospects of prosecution are bleak.

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