Law and disorder

A crime must not become the pretext for stoking prejudices. Goa's government must be vigilant.

The killing of Obado Uzoma Simeon, a Nigerian national, in Goa's Parra village, is still being investigated. It has already set off an ugly confrontation between Goans and Nigerian nationals living there, threatening to affect equations between the two nations. After the killing, a group of Nigerians, angry at the way the murder had been handled, blocked the national highway and clashed with the police. Shortly after, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar spoke of deporting Nigerians without papers. While Parrikar's remark may not have been intended to declare Nigerians generally suspect, other political leaders left little room for ambiguity. The state's arts and culture minister, Dayanand Mandrekar, likened Nigerians to "a cancer", a remark he later retracted. Fatorda MLA Vijai Sardesai spoke of the "impotence" of the government, and there has been loose talk in political circles of rounding up and deporting Nigerians, whose alleged involvement in drug rackets and crime was despoiling Goa.

This incident appears to have touched off long-held fears and prejudices, leading many in diverse and cosmopolitan Goa to label an entire nationality criminal. Much of the rhetoric has been racially tinged, including Parrikar's comment that the Nigerians who blocked the highway overwhelmed the Goa police, and were "huge and aggressive. Some of them are seven feet tall". A section of Goa's politicians and public seems to be demonising one group for the breakdown in law and order that allows the drug trade to thrive. A committee set up in the legislative assembly to investigate the politician-police-drug mafia has detailed some of these collusive networks. It should be obvious that one group is not singularly responsible for the drug peddling and crime in the state. By isolating and targeting Nigerians, the state is only sharpening tensions, and hurting the relationship with Nigeria, where many Indians live, work and invest in.

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