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INTERVIEW: ASSOCIATION OF AFRICAN STUDENTS IN INDIA

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India seems to be on a brink of a revolution as the struggle on the borders, amongst the religious and cultural minorities reaches a crescendo. What is the view like on their side, what is their perspective of the law and order? We talked Ezeugo Nnamdi Lawrence University Co-ordinator of the Association of African Students in India and here is what he had to say…

Q) How has your image of India changed from before coming here to after having lived here?

A) There’s censorship in image building for political reasons, almost all parts of the world are in a competition of better projection. India is not left out on this, when people do very little to actually be better but more to be perceived as such. I for one had no views other than the fact that I would be meeting different people and learning newer things which would positively impart me, travelling to a country, sub-continent of great diversity, a developing one like mine wouldn’t be more different as it would be easier to integrate, exchange, and gain knowledge that could be taken home with regards how her people have done better than mine. Unfortunately, it was but a child’s dream, as there seem to be a fostering of prejudices, discrimination, and stereotyping in the system here and owing to my origin perceived also as lower; no “White privilege” it was easy for such to be transferred towards me and people who are of my origin. I having understood the institutionalised discrimination in the systems here had only the question, why should it be a struggle for people of my origin? Such treatment coming from here was disappointing as it became evident that there’s no home for a black person, even Africa is at the verge of being taken from him with constructs of neocolonialism and neo-liberalism which India has adopted in her quest for superiority having continued in a system that encourages no equality and equity, where there are no law enforcement on human rights which is natures gift to all irrespective.

Q) Have you travelled to other cities in India such Mumbai, Chennai or Hyderabad? Was the experience any different?

A) Travelling is a part of education, as experience is often attached but a principality that is devoid of social freewill requires carefulness. I have been to few places but the story is almost same, lawlessness that encourages jungle justice, Hyderabad was where in 2016, a female African student was stripped and mobbed, the Chief Minister said “Students from Africa are indulging in illegal activities, and the people are even becoming scared” He further stated that the students are intolerant. Now if a leader can justify such treatment towards a female, if one should be logical, there is no protective rights of people of my origin in such a place.
There’s a failure of policing, this I can say unequivocally as most times police have no tactics on averting or controlling mobs, repeated incessant attacks on people of minority classes as the system is here. If investigations be carried out, there are sponsors of such mentality often times of the higher class whom are above the laws and thus can do as please. Discrimination and stereotypes cut across boundaries in the country, no place is better than the other and I must say that the safety of my people and other minorities should be taken into consideration by the states, law and order should be ensured which can be achieved if security agencies and the existing system is freed of biases thus bringing to the awareness of the citizens that an Egalitarian society is achievable and should be maintained.

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Q) There have been many cases of violence against black students in India, what was the reaction of the law and the media? Have the governing bodies at Universities been any different?

A) Because education plays great role in the development of the human mind, it becomes important for educational institutions in such a failed system globally to be restructured. Where there’s no propagation of integration, tolerance becomes annihilated, and thus freewill infringed. The universities are no better, where student bodies are not structured in ways that encourages minorities’ participation, where preferences are major players, and segregation a norm. Some institutes have been able to grow past this but that brings them under radars as they are thought to be opposing the system, and at some point may succumb.
Law enforcement agencies acts after, which is why I question their roles. Are we supposed to wait until someone is mobbed and lynched before acting, why not put structures in place to limit or completely avert the severity of this incidences that are on a rise today? People now even have enough time to even video and post their inhuman acts on the internet, it get to tell one where the system stands and how it has imparted the people of this country. A majority of the media has failed in educating people, as they are propagators of violence, promoters of hate, and I often ask why no media house has a television program that talks about Africa, her people here, and their ways of life, an action that would educate the average people on what the people of my origin uphold differently or similarly. Rather there’s a trend of disastrous pornographic images, feeding the minds of the people to hate, black is poor, black heart is dark, black is all negative. It’s time to change the narratives.

Q) There is an African community living on the Western coast of India called the Siddis (from South East Africa). They have lived in India for about four centuries now, fought wars with some Indian kings and were credited for the victory of some battles. Have you had a chance to interact with them?

A) I haven’t had such an opportunity to meet with a Siddhi, they are still called an African community because of improper integration, otherwise for the duration they’ve spent in the country it’s long overdue that they become Indians too. The state has ensured that they remain a minority, falsified their history and at certain point buried it from mainstream. They wouldn’t identify as siddhi’s knowing fully well what is attached to their origin, if I had met a Siddhi-Indian, I think he/she must have identified self as hailing from some other officially recognised place to protect his/her image and that of the community too.

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Q) India has its own battle with colour and misogyny, have you any observations on the same?

A) Of course, the society has conformed to the “white skinned privilege” a post-colonial mindset. I often do not blame such weakness, what should one expect from a people who upon long enslavements and tortures, fought aggressively physically to attain freedom from chains but did very little to free their minds? It’s a thing that has deep roots here, and a tool for which discrimination and stereotypes survive and flourish. What happens to people of my origin in India is also as a result of colour most times, Africans are not the only foreigners in India but are the only ones victimised, and this shall not continue, it has got to stop, subjection of Africans to all sorts of hate treatment should be looked into by not just the good people of India but also of the world. I would reserve more talks on the colour construct.

Q) How different is the experience of people from other races, European or Far Eastern?

A) As I’ve stated previously, they are very welcomed. They are worshipped, and I can say this since I have friends who are of these origins. I often taste the benefit treatments they receive when I am amidst them, this is so surprising as one often wonder how unfair some people are and the privilege that the society offers white and disgust to black which is a very unhealthy mental condition, and a lot of people are sick of this disorder, from families, to schools, around the globe. “We still yet dance to the piper’s tune” enslaved.

Q) Are you aware of any Africans who have lived here before the 70s (when India was said to be more secular,) was their experience any different?

A) Having been so exposed to all this has avail me the opportunity to meet people, the same is the tales. It has not changed rather branded into a global construct “racism” which still places people of my origin as the victims, and most often the perpetrators of certain unlawful acts as justification to unfair treatments and our association with whatever is evil and inferior.

The late president of Malawi H.E Bingu, Mr. Raf Uwazurike, amongst many others have in their time here talked about the same, and managed to confront this in varying ways but there seem to be reluctance in acknowledging and tackling the fact that the country exists in institutional discrimination and thus all in one form or the other falls in the same irrespective of how exposed one is. I still love India, I wish she lays an example for other parts of the world to emulate by being original and all I do hope is that this generation awakens to realities.

Q) Is there any positive experience that you would like to talk about?

A) I have got lots of fair, better, and human treatments from good people, family and friends. When I talk about discrimination I do this out of love for the good people here, whose image would be tainted by wrongs of others. I speak because I feel sad each time my fellow Africans experience bad treatments, this doesn’t mean I haven’t had good times too. It is always better for good to outweigh bad, that India is yet far from actualising. I do not want to be given preferential treatments or called baba, babu, in a place where some of its people are treated with huge disgust, until and unless the root issues of inequalities, from social, economic, political and all ramification in the country among her own people is addressed being an African in India remains a struggle.
How would you sum up your struggle so far?

If broadly understood, Stereotypes and Discrimination are fundamental elements of the social cum mental disorder termed Racism. It is I believe as a result of people accepting these as norms and rather than tackle the root causes of the bigger beast of Racism but tend to shy away and hide from their responsibilities, as if logically observed we all at some point have been either victims or perpetrators of the same. 
     
Just like all countries where there have been account of hate crimes towards other people, The Indian state has refused acceptance of the incessant and repeated attacks of people viewed as minorities or inferior, even at the recently concluded UN Human Rights convention in Geneva, and this begs the question of Human Right. Whereas, there is a growth in the infringement of freewill, intolerance in the society, minorities being targeted, a state of lawlessness and miscarriages of justice and fairness. 
   
We the Association of African students in India felt the need to initiate educational events and campaigns such that enables integration and understanding. It is no doubt that minorities are subjected and marginalised, with the survival of prejudices due to institutional biases in almost all governmental levels, not just in India but the World entirely makes it a challenge, a struggle, and rather than play victims the African students Community has resolved to help India and the World fight against discrimination and stereotypes.

We encourage people to stand up and join the campaign on Twitter @AASI_Official
Use hashtags (#LetsUniteAgainstStereotypes #LetsUniteAgainstDiscrimination) to express your opinion on the issue.
Facebook: Association of African Students in India.
Articles are welcomed for the website, www.aasi.org.in.www.aasi.org.in 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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