By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
It is dangerous to be a Nigerian in a part of India called Goa, described by Wikipedia as India’s smallest but richest state. It is also probably one of India’s most xenophobic states.
On October 30 this year, a Nigerian by the name of Obodo Uzoma Simon was murdered in cold blood by a gang of Indian brutes for no apparent reason. But the Indian press, taking cues from their local politicians, immediately associated the murder with a drug deal gone bad. Well, this turned out to be false, as you will see shortly.
A day after the murder, about 200 Nigerians in Goa staged a raucous protest to register their outrage. They wanted the murderer of their compatriot to be brought to justice and for Nigerian consular officers in India to supervise an autopsy of his corpse. While I admit that the manner of the protest (smashing road dividers, threatening police officers, dumping Simon’s corpse in the middle of the highway and halting traffic for hours on end, etc.) was condemnable and unacceptable, the reaction of Indians to the protest has been even more disconcerting.
First, after the protest, scores of Nigerians were arbitrarily arrested and clamped in jail. After this string of arrests, on the instruction of the police and politicians in Goa, landlords ejected all “black” people, not just Nigerians, from their apartments. According to the Times of India, “a resolution [was] passed by a local panchayat headed by the wife of a BJP legislator, Michael Lobo, banning Nigerians” from living in Goa.
“My landlord said all the 'blacks' had to be evicted on police instructions,” a 24-year-old Nigerian by the name of Chioma Ghansoli told the Times of India. “I have nowhere to go in Goa. Me and my friends will spend the night at the beach tonight with our luggage." Talk of guilt by association.
In justifying the onslaught on Nigerians, an Indian minister by the name of Dayanand Mandrekar told local Indian media that “Nigerians are like cancer” that must be eradicated from India. In the wake of this thinly veiled call to mass murder, a video surfaced on YouTube of a Nigerian being savagely clobbered with unspeakable barbarity by a bloodthirsty Indian mob. (See the video below).
We have no idea how many other Nigerians have been lynched in Goa because, well, there are almost no Nigerians in Goa now. But when a government minister describes an entire nationality as a “cancer,” it is reasonable that the vulgar herd will interpret him as giving them the license to cut off (read: slaughter) the “cancerous” people. The only thing cancer is good for is total annihilation.
When Indians are not lynching “cancerous” Nigerians physically in Goa, they turn to the Internet to accomplish this. The comments on news articles involving Nigerians on Indian websites are some of the most nakedly negrophobic hate-fest I’ve ever seen in my life. Nigerians are called monkeys, niggers, wild animals, sub-humans, Third World scum (as if India isn’t the leader of the Third World), and such other dehumanizing and unmentionable epithets.
The undiluted racist hate against Nigerians in India isn’t merely spewed under the pseudonymic cover of the Internet; even billboards revile and demean Nigerians. A particularly jarring billboard prominently displayed in a Goa town, which a Nigerian living in India called to my attention to, has the following inscription: “Say No To Nigerian (sic), Say No to Drugs.”
Apparently, because a few Nigerians living in India engage in drug trafficking, all Nigerians have been tarred with the same xenophobic broad brush. Well, it turned out, as I said earlier, that the Nigerian whose murder is the trigger for the rash of racist assaults against Nigerians in India was never involved in drugs, contrary to the claims of the Indian press, local police and politicians.
According to the November 11 edition of the Times of India, investigations have concluded that “There is not a single drug related case filed against Nigerian national Obado [sic] Uzoma Simeon who was murdered on the intervening night of October 30 to 31 at Parra.” Yet, Indians still repeat the canard that Simon (or is it Simeon?), who was ferociously stabbed more than 25 times, was murdered by rival Indian drug lords. (Oh, so Indians also do drugs? I thought only Nigerians did!)
All this doesn’t surprise me, frankly. India is an inexorably racist society. According to a global survey conducted in October this year, India ranks as the most racist country on earth. The survey measured racial intolerance by how “frequently people in a given country said they don't want neighbors from other races.” India’s racial intolerance, according to the survey, is equaled only by Jordan. (The most racially tolerant societies, the survey found, are the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Britain, Sweden, Norway, Latvia, Australia, and New Zealand.)
The current anti-Nigerian hysteria in India is fueled by two strains of bigotry in the Indian society: a lethal mixture of visceral negrophobia and Islamaphobia. India has a well-known, age-old problem with dark skin, a problem that is congealed in the country’s invidious caste system. Even dark-skinned Indians from the country’s south are often the victims of racist taunts and denigration, and Africans, according to many Indians who spoke frankly with me, are considered ugly, undesirable, and worthy only of ice-cold disdain.
India is, without a doubt, a terrible place for a black person to call home.
It’s even more terrible if the black person is also a Muslim. As a consequence of India’s continuing bitter animosities with Pakistan, many, perhaps most, Indians gaze at Muslims from the jaundiced lenses of their troubled relations with Pakistanis and instinctively assume that every Muslim is a Hindu-hating enemy. Of course, this is not true of all Indians, but it is true of most of them.
For anecdotal evidence, look at the comment sections of India’s English-language news websites about Nigerians. (I hear that the local-language websites are way worse). You will find a disproportionate percentage of commenters claiming that Nigerians are doing drugs to fund terrorism against Indians. Many commenters on TimesofIndia.com and other Indian websites also described Nigerians in Goa, including the late Simeon, as “Boko Haram terrorists”! Yet others called them “muzzies,” apparently a pejorative term for Muslims in India.
The Indians couldn’t be bothered that the people they call “Boko Haram terrorists” and “muzzies” are Christian Nigerians. You would think that a name like “Simon” would at least make that clear to them. Well, as I pointed out in a previous article three years ago, stereotyping is a great time saver; it enables ignorant and bigoted people to rush to quick judgment without the pesky encumbrance of nuance and factual information.
From what I can gather, it is now open season on Nigerians in Goa. Unspeakable atrocities are being committed against innocent Nigerians there. The Indian and Nigerian governments must act expeditiously to halt this madness.