The murder of a Nigerian national two weeks ago in Goa, a popular tourist destination on India’s west coast, is having outsize effects. At first it seemed like the episode would be only of local significance. A few hundred Nigerians turned out onto the streets of Goa in a protest that eventually turned violent. Police showed up and arrested some demonstrators, charging 51 people for rioting and arson.The aftermath has been ugly. Popular Indian mistrust of Nigerians living in India has bubbled to the surface. The Goan minister for arts and culture referred to Nigerians as a “cancer”, and signs have sprouted up across Goa blaming Nigerians for India’s drug trade. Indian landlords have sworn they will not rent apartments to Nigerians.This in turn has turned the spotlight onto the broader problem of racism in India. Africans living in Delhi report not feeling safe in most parts of the city. From Al Jazeera:
“I face racism on daily basis,” said Fortuna Mayala, 23, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from Mahatma Gandhi University.“Indians think black people are evil, that they are the devil, as if we are monkeys from some strange planet. It is hard to get rented accommodation for us in the capital.”Mayala, who is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, added that he has not made any Indian friends during his one-year stay in the city.
And the incident has gone on to cause a minor diplomatic row. Jacob Nwadibia, an administrative attaché of the Nigerian high commission in New Delhi, fumed:
“If discrimination against Nigerians was not stopped immediately, Indians in Nigeria may face repercussions,” Nwadibia said.“There are only 50,000 Nigerians living in India, but there are over a million Indians living in Nigeria. Thousands of Indians living there will be thrown out on the streets if the forcible eviction of Nigerians in Goa does not stop,” he said.
Indians are prominent members of Nigeria’s business community in Lagos. Indian drug companies are Nigeria’s biggest pharmaceutical suppliers, and Nigerian oil accounts for 25 percent of India’s imports. Trade this year between the two countries hit $16 billion, and India has invested $10 billion dollars in Nigeria, including in its electricity grid. The relationship is too profitable to be derailed by a single murder, but this episode is a reminder of how quickly things can get ugly when racial animosities flare.