Does Goa's reaction to Nigerians smack of racism?

Panaji, Nov 5: Popular resentment against Nigerians in Goa following a public, violent clash with police and local residents has triggered a range of reactions amongst the expat community living in Goa and other Goaphiles.

For several, the public and media reaction to the police inefficiency-fuelled and hysteria against Nigerians in Goa is clearly racist.

"I feel very sad, angry and disappointed from what I have read on various Goa sites. I cannot believe the racist, derogatory and disgusting views that some people are expressing and, yes, it has made me question my relationship with Goa, where I have spent most of the last seven years," says Victoria Miller a British national and a Goaphile.

Several expats experessed their anger

On Thursday, a mob of over 200 irate Nigerians, who police allege are part of a narcotics gang, blocked a national highway for several hours and attacked locals and policemen, protesting the murder of their compatriot, allegedly by a local rival gang operating from Chapora, a coastal village and "hub" for the drug trade.

What followed the blockade was a bloody and sordid episode where one Nigerian was nearly beaten to death in police presence and a sustained outpouring of racist tripe against the ebony-skinned Africans on the social media network, the mainstream media as well as the public at-large.

"Why pick the word 'Nigerian' like it is some disease" asks Angeli Alvares in response to one such article.

"Why not just say time to kick out all foreigners, instead of saying Nigerians and all foreigners as if Nigerians are now the devil himself who has come in while the others, the white angels, were acceptable," she further says.

The incident is being seen as a blot on the skills of state police, which seemed afraid and paralysed to counter the mob of Nigerians, some of whom even managed to wrest batons from the policemen and threatened them with the sticks.

"What showed up yesterday was raw drug power. Police manhandle you and me for minor offences, but those drug peddlers were ruling the NH17," claims Eric Pinto.

Sands Burton from Britain appears to be in the minority with her view that the police handled the "emotive situation" well and also adds that the Nigerians were rightly angry because one of their friends was killed.

"No matter where they are from, the colour of their skin, their friend had been killed. There are many people here in Goa who do not have the correct visas but that does not mean that they have to be demonised by the media, newspapers or social (media). Every human life should be respected," Burton says.

One would wonder what BJP legislator Subhash Phaldesai would have to say about Burton's comments. Phaldesai, at a press conference, said the Nigerians were "behaving like wild animals" whose bodies were "full of drugs".

Born in Leipzig, and presently living in Panaji, Choyin Dorje claims that the media here has been vehemently "chauvinistic" and "anti-foreigner", as against how locals privately feel.

"Goan media expresses their chauvinistic 'anti-foreigner' views blatantly, whereas in private most locals are tolerant," he says. Dorje also best articulates a realization, which once the emotional dust settles, could perhaps end up as one of the most practical and realistic summarizations of the Nigerian fiasco.

"And, yes, the drug trade is disgusting business, but the Nigerian peddlers definitely don't call the shots. Somebody else rakes in the 'big' money. Emotions only blur the facts. That's why politicians everywhere in the world like to stir up people's emotion," he sums up.


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