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Is India safe for foreign tourists?

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News Analysis |

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj sought information from the Uttar Pradesh government on a news report of a young Swiss couple being attacked by a group of youths in the Fatehpur Sikri on Sunday. She also said that her office will reach out to the couple. “I have just seen this. I have asked for a report from the state government. My officers will reach them in the hospital,” Swaraj tweeted.

According to the report, a couple from Lausanne in Switzerland was chased and attacked with stones and sticks by a group of youths in the Fatehpur Sikri on Sunday, leaving them battered and bruised. Quentin Jeremy Clerc, 24, who came to India on September 30 with his girlfriend Marie Droz, also 24, was quoted as saying that they were strolling near the railway station at the Fatehpur Sikri after a day in Agra when the group started following them and later attacked.

A combination of factors such as racial prejudice, xenophobia, religious hatred, sexual desires can be the cause behind the epidemic of attacks on foreigners.

According to the victims the perpetrators, a group of young men, started following them and after passing comments, they forced the couple to stop so they could take selfies with his girlfriend, Marie. The group then assaulted the couple leaving Clerc with a fractured skull, a clot in his brain and hearing impairment while his girlfriend has a broken arm and multiple bruises.

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The couple said as they lay on the ground bloodied and bruised, bystanders began taking videos of them on their mobile phones, according to the report. India has been rocked by several attacks on foreigners. Often most of these attacks were waged by insurgent groups who sought to utilize foreigners as a bargaining chip. However, recently a disturbing trend has been seen of foreigners being attacked by mobs or groups of young men. The most common target has been Africans present inside India.

In March, hundreds of residents of Greater Noida where a teenage boy died of a suspected drug overdose went on a violent rampage against Africans, using steel chairs to attack shoppers in a local shopping center. Similarly, on 24 September, a Nigerian man was beaten senselessly with sticks by a group of Indians for allegedly stealing some valuables. Police reports indicate that the incident took place in Savitri Nagar, New Delhi.

Many commentators have tried to explain these assaults on racist prejudices based in Indian social attitudes. Most of the attacks on Africans are interlaced with accusations of cannibalism, theft, prostitution and drug trafficking.

In May 2016, a Congolese man was killed by a mob in Delhi under unclear circumstances. In February the same year, a Tanzanian female student was attacked and partially stripped by a mob in Bangalore after an Indian woman was accidentally run over by a car being driven by a drunken Sudanese student.

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Many commentators have tried to explain these assaults on racist prejudices based on Indian social attitudes. Most of the attacks on Africans are interlaced with accusations of cannibalism, theft, prostitution and drug trafficking. India along with Jordan was found to be among the most racially intolerant countries of the world. However, these explanations fly in the face of integrated African communities that inhabit some areas of India, for centuries, like the Siddi.

And while Africans maybe persecuted due to being perceived as a being a lower race, the attacks on Westerners who are venerated at large by Indians, cannot be explained as racist. Westerners too have been targeted by mobs on various issues. Some have been religious like the example of the October 2015 attack on an Austrian couple. Yet religion has not always been a factor in these attacks.

Quentin Jeremy Clerc, 24, who came to India on September 30 with his girlfriend Marie Droz, also 24, was quoted as saying that they were strolling near the railway station at the Fatehpur Sikri after a day in Agra when the group started following them and later attacked.

The recent attack on a Swiss couple seems to have been instigated by the attempt of the locals to approach the Swiss girl. Attacks on western females have occurred more times than attack on western males. India has a dismal record when it comes to crimes against women including kidnappings, rapes, and molestations. So an attack on the Swiss couple can be linked to a sexual motive.

Read more: Are Hindu women being radicalized by RSS?

Yet another factor that is often put on the backburner is the rise of mob violence in the country. Since its creation, India has seen mob violence used as a tool to attain power. Hindutva fundamentalists have been on the forefront of using such tactics. It can be asserted that the continued use of this violence has degraded both the social and moral fabric of the nation allowing miscreants to raise havoc in pursuit of their goals.

India has been rocked by several attacks on foreigners. Often most of these attacks were waged by insurgent groups who sought to utilize foreigners as a bargaining chip.

The rise of Hindutva which counts on social divisions in the name of religion cannot be counted out as well. An overwhelming majority of foreigners targeted were non-Hindu. Hindutva targets Muslims and Christians as foreigners and this hatred against foreigners may as well have mutated into a hatred against all outsiders.

Read more: Suspects identified for Anti-Modi Indian journalist who was murdered

In the end, it can be concluded that a combination of factors such as racial prejudice, xenophobia, religious hatred, and sexual desires can be the cause behind the epidemic of attacks on foreigners.


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