Expelling Nigerians with valid visas or throwing them out of the flats they have been staying will not bode well for India’s image.
For many decades now, starting in the early 1960s, Goa became a haven for Hippies or the Flower Children as they were popularly called. These men and women brought along with them a culture of free sex, drugs and drinks.
Probably the most Westernised Indian state, having been a Portuguese colony for 450 years before India annexed it in 1961, Goa has had a liberal lifestyle. It has had an easy going people, who were genial, fun loving and less inclined to adhere to the largely restrictive social practices found in the rest of India.
However, over a period of time, Goa did degenerate into a territory notoriously infamous for paedophilia, drugs, topless beaches and all those crimes related to these – even while it remained a hot spot for both Indian and foreign tourism. Eight out of the 10 people whom I would meet in other countries were smitten by the image of Goa, with its sandy beaches, its drink of “feni” and its jolly good people.
In recent times, drug trafficking appears to have become a major issue in Goa, and last week, a Nigerian national was killed supposedly by a member of the mafia in what the police say was a fallout of a narcotics turf war.
The murder led to a protest by fellow Nigerians, who blocked a major highway.
A few days later, several towns in Goa decided that they would no longer rent out their flats to Nigerian nationals, and those who were already tenants were told to vacate.
The Goa government passed an order to deport all Nigerians in the state. This was later toned down to “only those without valid papers”.
Obviously, the murder and Goa’s knee-jerk reaction against Nigerians led to a diplomatic row between New Delhi and Abuja. The Nigerian High Commission in New Delhi retorted by saying that all Indians – many thousands in fact – working in oil-rich Nigeria would be sent back as a retaliatory measure.
While India cannot just afford to bring about a situation where its nationals working in Nigeria will be asked to leave, both Goa and New Delhi must take steps to ensure that the flow of narcotics into this country is checked, and that those responsible, be it even Nigerians, are punished or deported.
It is not clear whether Nigerians are also part of the drug mafia in Goa. But the state police say that the murder of the Nigerian was linked to the turf war in narcotics.
While one should not jump to a conclusion at this stage, it is imperative to understand that Indians have been, by and large, racist, and have generally never welcomed blacks.
Goa’s Nigerians may be a victim of this prejudice, at least a large number of them. That there could some Nigerians dealing in drugs does not make the entire community criminal.
And expelling Nigerians with valid visas or throwing them out of the flats they have been staying will not bode well for India’s image.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at[email protected]