Greater Noida, March 28: Few African students attended classes in varsities in Greater Noida today. One student from Noida International University (NIU), who was stabbed in the back and beaten up along with his brother by a mob in Ansal Plaza mall, is recovering in Kailash Hospital here.
"We were walking from the market near Pari Chowk where we had gone to buy groceries. I saw groups of men with bricks breaking things. We got scared and tried to hail four autorickshaws. They all refused. The mob closed in on us. We fled," the Nigerian student, who did not want his name revealed, told this paper.
There's a reason he did not want to give his name.
"Last year, I had an argument with a small group of students. The issue was sorted out and they apologised. But my landlord evicted me. No matter how outrageous the accusation - it's cannibalism this time, it's the Black who is the bad guy here, always."
A protest was organised by residents of National Security Guards Black Cat Enclave on Sunday evening in the heart of Greater Noida, demanding that the government expel all Africans because of their alleged cannibalism and drug abuse.
On Friday, after a 19-year-old student named Manish went missing in the enclave, a mob entered a house of Nigerians, accused them of cannibalism and searched their refrigerator. Two Nigerian students were taken into protective custody by the police.
On Saturday, Manish was found semi-conscious nearby. He was admitted to hospital, where he passed away in the evening, following which the parents filed an FIR against their five Nigerian neighbours, accusing them of murder and poisoning. Both Nigerians were released by the police on Sunday following protests by African students.
Police confirmed that the suspicion of cannibalism was misplaced and there was no evidence to link the Nigerians to Manish's mysterious death due to "unknown poisoning".
The cannibalism falsehood is the word on the Noida street. At every paan shop and bus stand, any question about Africans meets with the response that they eat humans and should be expelled.
"You won't believe it, but even educated people believe such rumours," Phil, a student from Arunachal, said.
"Our classmates are saying that we should keep a distance from these Africans because they eat human flesh. We hang out with Africans all the time but still people believe these rumours. We (Northeasterners) also face racism but the mild sort, like slurs from autowallahs. Unlike us, the Africans normally speak loudly and people fear them. Noida is just not safe for them these days," Phil said.
One of the protesters told this newspaper: "We are the victims, yet the police hit us with lathis. It is then that we turned violent and had altercations with Africans passing by."
At least four Africans were attacked in a car and the windows were smashed. The two brothers were chased into a Levi's showroom around 7.30pm.
"The Africans ran into our shop and tried to barricade the door with a table. We tried to push them out. Suddenly we saw almost 100 men barge in with sticks. They rushed to our store and messed everything up and dragged the Africans out, where they thrashed them with dustbins and chairs," a showroom attendant said.
"Even the shop attendants suffered minor injuries from the mob. Guard Kepinder Singh was hit on his neck and is on leave today. Three policemen reached immediately but were unable to control the mob until reinforcements arrived by 8pm," additional mall manager Chhotelal Suraj said.
The hospitalised Nigerian student said: "The police dropped us off at Amrapali Hospital where we were refused treatment. The mob had stolen my Rolex watch, mobile phone and Rs 7,000 in cash. I found some money in a pocket and offered it to staff at the hospital, begging for water. They said 'go outside and buy it'. We lay on the road, bleeding, until a good Samaritan saw us and took us in his car and admitted us to Kailash Hospital."
"I am in my final year now. I will write my exams and we will never return to India. When I came here, I tried to befriend Indians. They were very friendly but soon began to demand African women and drugs. I've avoided travelling and seeing all the monuments during my time here. I don't feel safe. I just want to get out," he said from his hospital bed.
Noida's senior superintendent of police Dharmendra Singh said an FIR on attempt to murder had been filed against a mob of 300 people, of whom five have been arrested.
"We will set an example by taking tough action," he said.
The police conducted a flag march through the area today and held a "confidence-building" meeting with district officials, residents' welfare associations, the Bar associations and African residents.
Najib Hamis Umar, a Nigerian PhD scholar at Sharda University, said that the police chased away a mob in Sigma 3 sector of Greater Noida today afternoon. "A mob had gathered when we called the cops who immediately rushed here. The mob fled seeing them. The police can't keep the peace forever and those of in areas where there are a few Africans are shifting homes to areas where there are more of us. Parents, especially of African women, are asking them to come home right now."
Sharda and NIU are readjusting hostel allotments to house all African students on their campuses that have bouncers at the gates.
The Association of African Students in India has asked students not to step out of their homes till Thursday. "We demand that the Indian government take steps to protect the lives and properties of Africans and compensate us for all the damage. We demand justice and a fair hearing for all victims. We have heard promises again and again from police in that people will be sensitised and things will get safer. We want implementation. How can there be south-south cooperation and business between us when we are attacked on bizarre rumours like cannibalism?" AASI president Samuel Jack said.