India’s tourist paradise just used an offensive term to describe an African

Tourism is central to Goa’s economy.
Tourism is central to Goa’s economy.
Image: Reuters/Punit Paranjpe
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Tourism may be a vital economic lifeline for many Goans, but that does not seem to stop the lawmakers in the state from being racially and culturally insensitive.

An official document placed by the state government in the assembly referred to an African national as a “Negro.”

According to news agencies, the word was mentioned in a document submitted along with chief minister Manohar Parrikar’s comments during the monsoon session of the state assembly this week. It referred to an African national arrested in Goa on May 8 as an “unknown African Nigro.”

Yes, the government also got the spelling wrong.

Parrikar apologised for using the word “negro” today and blamed a clerk in the police department for the mistake in his documents.

“Negro has two meanings. One is about a river in Amazon, and second is (in a) derogatory (sense). For that purpose, if someone is hurt, I apologise for that,” he told the Goa Assembly. “The clerk in police department does not understand how serious the particular word is.”

Known for its sun-kissed beaches and parties, Goa attracts tourists from all over the world. But this year, Goan ministers are being particularly tactless towards the foreign tourist. In July, a minister had demanded a ban on bikinis and mini skirts in the state saying such garments are against Indian culture. Instead, people should wear traditional attires such as dhoti, he had said. Last week, another minister had said that wearing bikinis hampers India’s superpower ambitions.

Goans aren’t strangers to racial tensions. In November 2013, anti-Nigerian sentiments were high in the state after a group of Nigerians blocked a crucial highway to protest a murder of one of their countrymen. In response, many locals stopped renting rooms and bikes to Nigerians. Posters proclaiming “Say no to Nigerian. Say no to drugs”  were put up in villages. A minister from the ruling BJP party referred to immigrants from the West African country as “cancer.” Later, he apologised for his comment.

Earlier this year, the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi came in for widespread criticism when its law minister conducted midnight raids at the homes of African nationals in the capital.