A cross cultural investigation on India's racism based on color and its impact on African Students

By Richardt Schoonraad



A recent spiral of racist remarks as well as direct prejudice has left international students questioning the legitimate safety as well as security of studies that wish to educate and develop themselves within the country. One of the most well documented cases of the explicit showcase of India’s caste driven mindset which took place on the 27th of March in New Delhi, with the attacks targeted at a group of bystanding African students. The supposed attacks were claimed to be based upon the false conception that a group of five African students were involved in a drug trade that may have caused the death of a young Indian boy via a suspected drug related overdose. This incident correlated quite closely with the nature of an event that took place in 2016 wherein a 21 year old Tanzanian woman in Bengaluru was stripped and attacked along with her friends as a result of a Sudanese student running over a local woman. Though these cases in Indian communities and states only indicate and suggest that, as commented by experts, that these incidents reflect an increase in xenophobic ideologies and India’s deeply entrenched racism towards individuals of darker skin tones.

Despite these challenges faced by minorities such as African students in India, ever since a prominent economic boom and development of the field of IT during the early 2000’s, the South Asian nation has become the go to destination for African youth students, traders, as well as visitors from mainly East Africa, Nigeria which holds strong political relations and trading history. This is becoming a trend as African students seek better occupational as well as academic opportunities. However, there remains stagnant challenges of African students in India one of the many issues is stigmatization and negative portrayals as well as representation as drug dealers or womanizers with roughly 60,000 students choosing the nation as a go to study destination as India presents both high quality academic qualifications, low prices as well as the instruction of English as the means of course delivery. Concerningly a direct expression from an overseas law student in India Michael Kwaje had gone on to iterate that,’’most of the Africans in India are seen as criminals. I don't know why Indians think we are drug peddlers or burglars.’’ Moreover, India presents a negative track record with regards to the treatment and safety of African origin students with a famous attack in 2012 where a Brundian national, Yannick Nihangaza was beaten ever so closely to death within the Jalandhar district and left to bleed to death by the roadside. It is this blatant violence showcased by the Indian community which highlights the lack of knowledge regarding the cultural diversity of the African continent and African individuals which are both politically and geographically rich and consisting of 55 independent nations with racial discrimination one of the most reoccuring obstacles faced by foreign nationals in the country.


Though on the other hand, China as a nation has been attempting to establish a propaganda like positive trading future with Africa however recent circumstances and maltreatment of African nationals in Guangzhou with the students and communities facing a eviction, unnecessary quarantining and starvation which have surfaced and created a massive political stir within Beijing and thus hamper any future bilateral partnerships with African nations in future economic engagements. Encouragingly enough is the fact that India has initiated an access point for African youth to enter the nation from 2015 onwards as the Indian government has provided more than 50,000 scholarships to African students within various fields of study and disciplines. Furthermore Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has gone on to clarify that the African continent be dubbed as a ‘top priority’ in relation to Indian foreign and economic policy developments which coincides with the initial Pan Africa E-Network project which was initially established in 2004.




Students at a University in India stand against racism


The main area of concern surrounding the implementation of a caste system in Indian society remains as a barrier that highlights the mental health and persistent conflict of the psyche of the local populations within India with reports indicating that ,’’about 90 percent of the African students don't like to continue a few days after arriving in India. However, the rules are as such that you cannot go back just like that.’’ As communicated by a BCA student, Isaac Mulumbu from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thus there have been contrasts in government response with regards to attacks and blatant racism as an incident of foreign students from India, visiting Australia during the period of 2008 to 2010, Australian officials were looked down upon and accused of not effectively dealing with the issue at hand and India media attacked and belittled Australians as a result of the event as much as possible. Concerningly enough, little had been done or covered with regards to the neglecting of African foreign students in India.




Authors and writers have admitted and expressed their disgust with regards to India’s continued application of a caste system which contains countless systematic flaws as for instance Hindu’s worshipping of the Goddess Kali who is depicted within ancient texts as being black in colour with the official meaning of the name Kali in Sanskrit translating to ‘the black one’ and its cultural symbology representing infinity as well the origin of all other known colours, though the prejudice remains however efforts by filmmakers have attempted to remove these common stereotypes as a prominent film producer, Tarun Jain had constructed a short film titled Kaala which depicted racial discrimination at its best in the city of Delhi during 2016 to 2017 as a young blackman is horrendously harassed within the city and the film highlighting common racially biased behaviours such as gazes, gestures and comments. With the film's director going on to justify that,’’this story is not based on a true one but it is an amalgamation of real incidents that I came across during my research. I wanted to connect to the larger audience and that kept taking me back to the stories I have heard.’’ This same scenario has taken place at Uttarakhand’s Roorkee Institute of Technology where two African students have been brutally attacked highlighting the unchanged historical bias towards those presenting darker features which contrasts Indian’s living within the US’s recent unison with the Black Lives Matter movement which took international media by storm.


Recent research by the Indian Human Development Survey, highlights that even discrepancies in the poverty line exist within India based on religious disparities where Muslims are almost unaccounted for in the government's decision making with reports from the Indian Express determining that there remains a gap between identifying casts and developing mechanisms to remove these impediments accordingly.




Stigma and racial bias is common and unwavering clear within certain parts of Indian Communities


Though progress in India’s caste system impediments will hopefully take center stage and be removed as members of the Caste Census have begun to establish frameworks to account for OBC’s (Other Backward Classes) as a means to better establish how to implement welfare systems across Indian communities nationwide.





About the Author:



Richardt Schoonraad is a fresh graduate having studied a Bachelor's Degree specializing in Psychology with Human Resource Management. He is passionate about public health, forensic psychology, health sciences, social work, travelling and learning languages. He is currently a U matter Ambassador and member of Project Leap, a United Nations organization known for volunteering, story sharing and connecting people from around the world through community based initiatives. Richardt has also been a volunteer for the UAE Ministry of Economy during the Annual Investment Meeting in April 2018 and a recipient of a Best Research Award from the American University of Sharjah’s MUN during February 2018.


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