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Treated Like Dogs - Politics - Nairaland

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Treated Like Dogs by autofreak2020: 12:32pm On Apr 12, 2013
Sheeba Rani has been
ostracised by many friends
and relatives for marrying
Nigerian Sambo Davis Africans staying in and
around India's commercial
capital, Mumbai (Bombay),
complain of indiscriminate
racism and constant police
harassment, reports the BBC's Zubair Ahmed. Nigerian Sambo Davis is
married to an Indian woman
and lives in Mumbai. All his documents are valid,
but he was arrested by the
police recently on suspicion of
being a drug dealer. He and 30 other black Africans
were detained for hours
before they were let off with
an apology. But the following day, Mr
Davis said that he was
shocked to read in local
newspapers that they were
"arrested for drug peddling". "The police treat us Africans
like dogs," he says. Mr Davis claims he often faces
discrimination when he goes
to restaurants or when he
tries to rent an apartment in
gated middle-class
communities. But he is nevertheless one of
the lucky ones. He found a
decent flat to rent, thanks to
his Indian wife. But his fellow countrymen, he
says, still face discrimination:
"When they go to rent flats in
a normal building they are told
- 'you are a black man, you are
Nigerian, and you are not wanted'. This is racism." 'Hide and seek' There is no official data on
how many Africans live in
Mumbai, but since India's
economic progress gathered
momentum in recent years,
many have come to work in and around the city. Unofficial
estimates put their numbers
at more than 5,000. Most of them are engaged in
exporting garments to Nigeria
and other African countries. Many others are students,
enrolled in the region's
prestigious educational
institutions. But there are also hundreds of
Africans, mostly Nigerians,
who live as illegal immigrants
in India. They have either
"lost" their passports or their
visas have "expired". Every day, these people play
hide-and-seek with the police
- if they are caught, they are
sent to jail. Ikeorah Junior from Lagos
runs a cafe for Africans in a
crowded market on Mumbai's
Mohammed Ali Road. "I don't understand why they
[police] have to go from house
to house to arrest the people
who don't have their papers.
If they don't have papers, then
deport them, don't put them in jail," he says. Ahmed Javed, who is in
charge of maintaining law and
order in the state of
Maharashtra, says it is not that
simple: "In most cases they
have no passports. So, unless their nationalities are
determined, they cannot be
deported." Dozens of Africans have taken
up residence on Mira Road, a
dusty, nondescript town just
outside Mumbai. One "illegal immigrant" there
asked me for money, claiming
he had not eaten for two days. He looked worried and told
me that he had been
approached by drug dealers to
work for them. African man in Mumbai street Many Africans face
discrimination when they try
to rent apartments "I have been here for three
years - my visa expired a long
time ago. I want to go back
home. Please help me,
brother," he tells me. In this neighbourhood, Negro
or kaalia (black in Hindi) are
the two words
indiscriminately used to
describe all black people. "We call them Negro because
they are black. They look
frightening," says one woman. "They don't find homes to rent
in Mumbai, they only stay in
Mira Road. Why? Because of
the way they behave. They
sell drugs and indulge in other
illegal activities. They cannot be trusted," a local man
commented, seemingly
unaware of the offensive
nature of his words. 'Embarrassed and
ashamed' Against such a backdrop of
pronounced prejudice, Sheeba
Rani married Sambo Davis
four years ago and the couple
have two children. Mrs Davis says her parents are
enlightened Christians and
they blessed them because
they thought the marriage
was God's wish. But, she says, she has been
ostracised by many friends,
relatives and society since her
marriage. Mrs Davis is "embarrassed and
ashamed" by the behaviour of
the Indian people towards
black Africans. Wedding picture of Sheeba Rani and Sambo Davis Sheeba Rani's parents blessed
the couple saying the
marriage was God's wish "When I used to go to a mall or
if I walked with him, I always
wanted him to hold my hand.
But when people saw me with
him, they thought I was from
a bad family or even a prostitute." Earlier, she did not understand
why black people were being
looked down upon, but now
she says she does. "Because our society is
obsessed with white skin. If I
had married a white man, I
would have gained more
friends and society's approval
too." Mr Davis believes that the
discrimination is solely
"because I am a black man". "It's because I am from Africa,
I am a Nigerian. I think
Indians see us as inferior." Yet despite the discrimination
they face, nearly all Africans
the BBC interviewed said they
had a soft spot for their
adopted country. They say the relations
between India and Africa are
"rock solid". Many argued that
Indians and Africans are
brothers. "We look after Indians in our
countries. They have become
rich there. All we want here is
for Indians to understand we
are not drug dealers. We are
not violent. We are just like them."

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