AFRICA-INDIA SOLIDARITY FORUM
Held on 10 JUNE, 2016 at Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi
The Africa-India Solidarity Forum initiated by Intercultural Resources held its first Intercultural Dialogue on 10th June, 2016 at Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi. The meeting was called to draw attention to the spate of racial attacks on the citizens of the African nationalities residing in Delhi and other parts of the country. The meeting was attended by a large number of university students, activists, scholars, and diplomats from India as well as representatives from African communities living in the NCR.
The concept note on Africa-India Solidarity Forum highlighted the shared plurality and diversity that characterized the two regions as well as the historical socio-cultural and economic ties have with one another which reflect the connectivity and closeness that the regions share. The note also emphasized the common struggles against colonial rule as well as the platform of the non-aligned movement which “bound us together in our struggle for a different kind of destiny where our countries would experience genuine sovereignty and our peoples social justice and equality in the comity of nations”. Simultaneously, the current reality of neo-liberal policies and globalizing economies has also brought forth the question of a developmental agenda based on rights along with an inclusive platform for social justice.
The note called for urgent measures to stem the tide of deterioration in relations with Africans, to build bridges between cultures and communities and to further dialogue between the peoples of our countries, while at the same time ensuring that safety and security of all migrant populations.
The meeting was chaired by Dr. Indu Agnihotri, Director of Centre for Women’s Development Studies who began by referring to the present day context wherein global structures and power played a role.
The key note speaker, Prof. Achin Vanaik spoke about the need for analyzing racism and its various manifestations and its close connection with politics and power structures of global capitalism. He pointed out that Zionism was not so much anti-Arab as it was anti-Palestine. The manifestations of racism, i.e., skin colour racism has characterised everyday life in Indian society and could be traced to the ‘Aryan’ and non-Aryan divide and its theorization which finally culminated in the theory of the ‘divine race’ and its close connection with casteism, though casteism was a much more complex phenomenon. But both were social constructs and ideologies that essentialised the diverse and complex structures of society. These were basically ideologies which supported existing power structures. He also referred to the close relationship between casteism and sexism, though he pointed out that the issue of sexism was far more complex, beginning from the intimate realm of the family to more institutionalized realms of society. The manifestations of racism were complex and could take various forms; he pointed out that while skin colour racism may be absent but racism is most often institutionalised. It was necessary examine the links between these various exclusionary ideologies to the power structures that support them. He also referred to the Islamophobia that was speaking across the world.
Zaharuddeen Mohammad, spokesperson of the Association of the African Students in India spoke of the historical ties that have characterised Africa and India and spoke of the number of students who have been attracted to India for the opportunities it offers for higher education. But regrettably, they have had in recent years experiences of racial attacks. He thanked the Forum for taking up the issue and offered the cooperation of the Association for future activities of the Forum.
Dr. Muniza Khan, registrar of the Gandhian Institute of Studies, scholar and activist spoke on behalf of the Saanjha Sanskriti Manch, Banaras. She mentioned the composite culture that characterizes Banaras and its people and gave instances of so many foreigners who have made Banaras their home. However, this was being undermined in multiple ways. She expressed her support for the Forum and its activities.
Ibrahim Djidi Adam, a student from Libya spoke emotionally of the kind of racial abuse that the many students and businessmen had of late begun to experience in India along with the stereotyping of all Africans as drug peddlers and as those who practice cannibalism. Women were particularly targeted as loose and promiscuous and indulging in prostitution. He also pointed out that there were many Indians who were friends. He also hoped that the formation of such forums would help Africans feel more secure.
Dr. Fabian, former Ambassador to Italy spoke of the xenophobia that was sweeping across the world. He expressed his solidarity and support for the Forum.
Suhas Borkar, Convener of the Working Group on Alternative Strategies dwelt on the manner in which the fabric of pluralism was being undermined and a process of ‘othering’ was at work even in Indian society wherein Dalits and people from the Northeast India were also targets of such exclusionary ideologies. He expressed his solidarity and support for the Forum and its activities.
Seema Mustafa, well known journalist and activist, pointed out that the racial attacks against the Africans in recent times is a manifestation of the phenomenon of intolerance that is sweeping across society. There is an overall process of othering that is at work and that is being consciously promoted; at different points of time, different groups were being targeted, whether it is Dalits, Northeastern peoples, minorities or women. There is a need therefore to confront the various forms of exclusionary ideologies and practices. She offered her support for the activities of the Forum.
Mukesh Kulariya of the JNUSU spoke about the spread of various forms of communal and narrow ideologies and also of corporate fascism. He expressed the solidarity of the JNUSU and full support for the Forum in its activities.
Dr. Ashwini Kumar, a well known academic form Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai spoke the need to redefine capitalism and also to understand xenophobia and the politics around it, if we need to confront it.
Dr. Agnihotri, the chairperson suggested that the activities of Forum should also include inviting African women to share their experiences while living in India.
Dr, Vasanthi Raman stated that a small steering committee would be formed and would meet soon to discuss the activities of the Africa-India Solidarity Forum.