Nigeria’s Envoy Reacts to Racist Remarks by Minister Giriraj Singh

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In a remark that was offensive at multiple levels, minister Giriraj Singh said that if former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had married a “Nigerian woman…would the Congress have accepted her as its president?”

After being flayed for his sexist and racist outlook, the minister said that his remarks about Congress president Sonia Gandhi were “off the record”; he also said he does not understand why his remark is being seen as “anti-women” and that he “regrets the comment if it has hurt Sonia or Rahul ji.”

Nigerian High Commissioner OB Okongor, said today that “given that the minister is at the highest levels of government, the remarks made are unfortunate.”

“India, Nigeria have close ties, such remarks not expected,” he added.

This is the second time in recent months that a senior political leader has exhibited blatant racism. In January 2014, Somanth Bharti, then the Law Minister in the Delhi government headed by Arvind Kejriwal, detained and harassed a group of African women in their neighbourhood, alleging that they were part of a prostitution and drugs racket. The women he targeted were from Nigeria and Uganda; they took him to court.

Mr Bharti admitted that the incident took place, but said there was no ill-treatment of the women. He claimed he was forced to act because police failed to do so despite complaints from local residents.

Mr Bharti was not removed from office despite widespread criticism from activists and other parties; but when Mr Kejriwal returned this year as Chief Minister of Delhi, Mr Bharti was not included in his government.

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