New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) With African heads of mission demanding strong action from the government in the wake of a Congolese man’s murder in the national capital last week, India on Wednesday moved to assuage the grievances of the envoys and assured them of the safety and security of African nationals in the country.
The Africa Day celebrations being organised by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) on Thursday, from which the envoys said they would stay away, will also now be held as scheduled.
According to sources, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh who met with Eritrean Ambassador Alem Tsehage Woldemariam, also the dean of the Group of African Heads of Mission, and a few other diplomats, strongly condemned the criminal act and assured them that the strongest legal action would be taken.
Masonda Ketada Olivier, 29, was beaten to death by three youths around 11.30 p.m. on Friday after a verbal altercation over the hiring of an auto-rickshaw near Kishangarh village in Vasant Kunj area of south Delhi.
Two of the accused have been arrested while the third is on the run.
On Tuesday, Woldemariam in a statement on behalf of all the African heads of mission, sought strong action by the Indian government against the perpetrators of the murderous attack on Oliver.
Woldemariam said the envoys requested that the event be postponed, and that the African nations also decided not to participate in the celebrations, except for a cultural troupe from Lesotho.
“This is because the African community in India, including students, are in a state of mourning in memory of the slain African students in the last few years, including Oliver,” the statement said.
The sources said on Wednesday that Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najib Jung and Delhi Police chief Alok Kumar Verma have been spoken to and they were pursuing the matter.
Stating that Singh assured the heads of African missions of the Indian government’s full support, the sources said Singh would also do an outreach event with African students along with embassies concerned to reassure them of their safety.
“It was also decided that the minister of state would meet the African heads of mission every three months,” they said.
“On the issue of the ICCR’s Africa Day event, Singh impressed upon the African heads of mission the need to continue the tradition but also said that we would be guided by the African heads of mission in the matter.”
Meanwhile, it is reliably learnt that the ICCR has received the green signal from the authorities concerned to go ahead with the Africa Day event.
Earlier on Wednesday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted that she has asked Singh to meet the heads of mission of African countries and assure them of the Indian government’s commitment to the security of African nationals.
“V.K. Singh will also hold meetings with African students in metro cities to assure them of their safety and security,” she said.
In a separate tweet, Sushma Swaraj said the government would launch a sensitisation programme to reiterate that such incidents against foreign nationals embarrass the country.
“When I came to know about the unfortunate killing of a Congo national in Delhi, we directed stringent action against the culprits,” she said.
“I would like to assure African students in India that this was an unfortunate and painful incident involving local goons.”
Sushma Swaraj said she has asked Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najib Jung to take steps and ensure that this case was tried by a fast track court.
“Jung has assured me that he will take immediate action in this regard,” she said.
In a separate statement, the external affairs ministry described the death of Olivier as “very unfortunate” and said that “we condemn the incident unequivocally”.
It said Amar Sinha, secretary (economic relations) in the ministry of external affairs, who handled relations with Africa, met a group of African heads of mission, including Woldemariam.
He explained to them that immediately on receipt of information on the incident his ministry got in touch with Delhi Police, which acted promptly.
“Two suspects have already been arrested while one is on the run. We will ensure that justice is done and stringent punishment given to those involved in the attack,” the statement said.