India on Wednesday promised swift punishment after a student from Congo was fatally attacked last week in New Delhi, following a demand by several African missions that the government take steps to ensure the safety of Africans living in India.
Hundreds of thousands of African nationals study and work in India and routinely deal with rampant racism and discrimination in the country, where police action often has been slow in cases of violence against Africans.
The victim in last week’s attack, Masunda Kitada Oliver, was a graduate student who had lived in India for over six years, according to the Congolese Embassy in New Delhi.
He had hailed an auto rickshaw on Friday night when three men insisted they had hired the vehicle. The men beat him up and hit him on the head with a stone, and he died later that night, police said.
Two of the men suspected in the attack have been arrested, while police are searching for the third.
The African Heads of Mission in New Delhi issued a statement on Tuesday urging India’s government to address the problems of “racism and Afro-phobia” in the country. They also asked the government to postpone an Africa Day celebration slated for Thursday.
“Given the pervading climate of fear and insecurity in Delhi, the African Heads of Mission are left with little option than to consider recommending to their governments not to send new students to India, unless and until their safety can be guaranteed,” the statement said.
In response, India promised quick punishment.
“We will ensure that justice is done and stringent punishment given to those involved in the attack,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The attack was the latest to target Africans in India.
In February, a Tanzanian woman was beaten and stripped naked by a mob in the southern city of Bangalore after a Sudanese student’s car hit an Indian woman.
In September 2014, a video of three African men being beaten inside a New Delhi metro station caused uproar in India, where fair skin is coveted.