Indian-origin SA people go into panic mode

As uneasy calm settled over the troubled KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces of South Africa, worst affected in the July violence following the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma, cracks are beginning to show.

Their prime targets — Indian-origin South Africans in Durban and Johannesburg — say they have been receiving WhatsApp messages threatening renewed or ‘Part-II’ of the violence, asking “Indians to go back from where they came”.

Kimeshan Raman, a 33-year-old resident of Durban and social activist, who has recently applied for an OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card, said, “It’s a panic reaction. Messages and videos are being circulated targeting Indians. We want to protect our families.”

At least 330 people, many of them Indians, were killed in the riots that ravaged parts of South Africa for about two weeks, from July 9. It was four days after deadly arson and looting before President Cyril Ramaphosa deployed the army to quell the violence.

Indian-origin South African citizens have gone into panic mode, desperate for a “back-up” plan. Several of them admitted they have applied for the OCI cards or were in the process of doing so.

Potential applicants blame poor upkeep of documents, including the ship list of indentured labourers brought from India nearly 150 years ago, and the lackluster response of the Indian Embassy to their plight. “We are scared of another round of violence. I will be applying for an OCI card,” said Krishna Jagarnath, 35, a Durban resident, whose ancestors hail from Bihar.

Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter Ela Gandhi, who resides in Durban, said, “We are trying to unite people across racial lines and build peace and goodwill.” But there’s a lot of uncertainty and insecurity because of threats from certain sections. “We don’t know where they are going to attack and when they are going to attack,” she said.

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