63 Nigerian students at the GD Goenka University in Gurugram, a city in Northern India, have been forced to leave after Islamophobic and xenophobic attacks took place against them. The riots started during a game of football at the university, after the university proceeded to create mixed teams. However, tensions had been rising for some time, due to objections by Hindutva inspired students to the Nigerian students praying salah beside the football pitch in September. A protest took place then where students chanted “Jai Shree Ram”, a Hindutva rally cry used when attacking Muslims. This time around the Nigerian students were attacked and beaten with sticks in horrific scenes, some of which were caught on camera and posted by a university lecturer. The Indian press tried to claim that they were clashes between the two sides, and also neglected to speak about the earlier September protests, however video footage shows the Indian students first coming onto the pitch, whilst the Nigerians leave, attempting to avoid any trouble.
The Hindutva ideology which opposes minority religions and groups (including ‘lower caste’ Hindus such as Dalits) in India, particularly Islam, has caused a lot of resentment against Muslims, and has attempted to create laws that block immigration if the immigrants happen to be Muslim. This Islamophobia has also turned into xenophobia and Afrophobia in cases like this where Africans are associated with Islam.
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Re. The freedom of Muslims to practise in India
I have been very concerned about the recent attacks that have taken place by Hindutva inspired rioters against Nigerian students at the GD Goenka University in Gurugram, India. During these attacks Nigerian students were beaten with metal bars and forced to leave the university, where they are too scared to now return. These attacks are a continuation of anti-Nigerian protests which took place at the university in September in response to Nigerians offering Islamic prayers beside a football pitch. The protestors had chanted “Jai Shree Ram”, a battle cry used by Hindutva activists when attacking Muslims and now 63 students have become too fearful to return to the university.
Whilst such attacks against Muslims are not uncommon in India, a country becoming more and more Islamophobic under the Hindutva government, it is shocking to see that these can be directed at foreign students without fear of political repercussions. The African Union must be clear and uncompromising in its response to this horrific travesty of human rights. You must make it clear that India cannot treat Africans as their enemy, and that any such attack is an attack on the entire African continent.
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