Last week, a 23-year-old Congolese national was allegedly beaten to death by a group of men in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj area. While African diplomats in India protested against racist attacks on their citizens in India, Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma had a strange response to the killing.
On Friday, Sharma said that the killing of the Congolese man was unfortunate, but then went on to add that "even Africa is not safe".
The tourism and culture minister said that he has experienced first-hand how unsafe Africa could be.
"India is a large country and such incidents will give a bad name to India. It is an unfortunate incident. However, even Africa is not safe," Sharma said in an interview.
He recalled how he had to miss his morning and evening walks during a visit to South Africa because of safety concerns, adding that it is unfair to paint India as an unsafe country.
"When I went to South Africa, I was stopped from going for a morning walk at 6 am by the hotel people citing security reasons. My post dinner walk was also dropped for the same reasons. It's not fair to say that India is unsafe," said the minister.
Masunda Kitada Oliver, the victim in last week’s attack, 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 already hired the vehicle. The men beat him up and hit him on the head with a stone, and he died later that night, the police said.
Two of the suspected attackers have been arrested, while police are still looking for the third.
The African Heads of Mission in New Delhi issued a statement on Tuesday urging the Indian government to address the problem of “racism and Afro-phobia” in the country.
In the statement, they said, “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."
In response, India has promised quick punishment. “We will ensure that justice is done and stringent punishment given to those involved in the attack,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the external affairs ministry said on Thursday, that some people of Indian origin in Congo were injured after their shops were attacked, possibly as a reaction to the murder of the Congolese student in Delhi.
“Our embassy in Congo is in touch with local authorities and, as of now, things have calmed down. India’s relations with Congo go back many years,” the MEA said.
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