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Millennium Post

No matter you are black or white!

Twenty-three-year-old Richie Ronsard left his home in Congo two years ago to fulfil his childhood dream of obtaining a degree from an established institute in India. The reality check was not long in coming.

‘I arrived in this city with a lot of expectations. India has a very positive reputation in my country. I was sure that this was going to change my life, but instead I soon learnt that the image of the country outside far surpassed the reality I faced once I was here,’ Ronsard said, adding he has been treated like a third class citizen from day one.

‘Wherever I go out in public I feel out of place. People stare at me all the time. They call me by names like
kalu
and laugh at me. One day in the metro a small child came running to me and started shouting that word at me and pulling my shirt. His mother stood there looking at him without stopping him. I couldn’t say or do anything because he was just a child, but inside I felt embarrassed and even angry. Is this how your children are being educated,’ asked Ronsard, who has political ambitions and is working towards a masters in Politics, Philosophy and Economy (PPE). The stereotyping of Africans, especially Nigerians, in India as drug dealers has in some part affected how most Africans are treated in the national capital and elsewhere. This puts them under the scanner of the police and often intrudes upon their rights and privacy. ‘At least twice a week during the first year I was being visited by the local cops in what they referred to as a general check. I wonder if that also happens to non-Africans here,’ Ronsard stated.

Approximately 80 per cent of the hundreds of students from Africa – labelled the world’s fastest growing continent with as many as 54 countries – who come to India are students and this translates into a fair sum of money for the country’s educational sector. However, despite the growing interest by foreigners in Indian educational institutes, especially universities, little has been done to ensure their wellbeing by either the state or the educational representatives. It is not just Ronsard, but many other African students sharing the same story.

Fredrick Kaitale is a 20-year-old from Uganda studying for his Bachelors in Business Management. For him, who has met and dealt with the large Indian community in his country, being seen as different in India came as a big shock. ‘I am proud to be black, so I don’t mind being called
Kalu,
but it does feel weird when I am stared at continuously. Everyday I meet other Africans who have been victims of racism, ill-treated not just by the people on the street but also by the authorities, who turn a blind eye to what is happening in front of them,’ Kaitale said. Additionally, getting decent living accommodation is a major task for African students who come to India. Many of them are turned away at the doorstep by potential landlords as soon as they see that the students are black. Valid reasons are not given, but it is evident from the manner that they are turned away.

Despite this, students feel that there is a lot of potential in India and would still like to come here for higher educational opportunities that it offers. According to them, there are several solutions, but key in this is the role of the media and the government.

‘The government really needs to work actively towards improving relations between India and Africa. This can be done by putting laws against racism in place. People should be scared of the legal repercussions of racist remarks and bullying. Also, the media needs to have more programmes that focus on black Africa so that we don’t seem alien when we get here,’ Emmanuel Onaputa from Congo suggested.

African representatives in India said that there is a move to address the problems, but there’s a lot that is yet to be done. According to the Ugandan Ambassador to India, Nimisha Madhvani, ‘these are issues that students face the world over. We are in discussions with the Indian government to alert them to our concerns and to work with them to help harmonise and calm the situation.’ (IANS)
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