NEW DELHI, India, Feb. 27, Reuter: Police broke up a protest demonstration today by African students over “racist” compulsory aids tests for foreign students.
Officers carrying rifles and sticks moved in to stop about 150 Africans marching near Delhi’s old walled city.
They bundled scores of protesters into trucks and ripped up their banners, one of which read: “Aids is not from Africa”.
A senior police officer told reporters foreigners were not allowed to demonstrate in India without police permission, which had been refused in this case.
Some policemen hit students with rifle butts but nobody was seriously injured in the scuffles, which lasted less than half an hour.
The protest was sparked by a government order that all foreign students should be screened for Aids (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Indian students are not tested.
Ndirangu Maina, President of the African Students’ Association, said the tests were racist because they were aimed at Africans.
“People have been taken in by propagandas that Aids is African”, he told reporters.
Maina, 24, from Kenya, said the students would seek a meeting with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to demand that the test be stopped. “We have decided that foreign students here (in Delhi) shall not undergo the Aids test”, he said, adding that no students in Delhi had yet been tested. Tests on Africans in Bombay have already triggered protests.”
The government said in Parliament on Wednesday it would continue the tests. Nearly 1,130 foreigners have been screened since the decree was issued in August and 10 were infected with the Aids virus, it said. It did not say whether Aids sufferers had been deported.
Education officials estimate that most of the 20,000 foreigners studying in India are Africans, mainly from Kenya and Nigeria.
Apart from foreign students 86 people in India have contracted Aids and five have died, the government said.
University authorities deny the tests are racist since they cover all students from more than 50 countries.
Black students said the screening was aimed at them because they formed the bulk of the number. They said the Indian authorities believed “unscientific” and “racist” media reports that the Aids virus came from Africa.
“It is because of the large population of African students that this test has been brought in, even though it is aimed at all students”, said David Bosira, 23, a commerce student from Kenya.
The students said the tests were ineffective because Indians who could have contact with Africans were not screened.
“Aids knows no race. What makes you think foreign students are the only carriers”, read one banner.
“Africans in India sometimes are viewed with contempt”, Bosira said.
Article extracted from this publication >> March 6, 1987