At a time when racial attacks on Africans in the capital are making headlines, there is one African community that finds itself immersed in another issue altogether. On Monday afternoon, over a hundred Biafrans held a peaceful demonstration at Jantar Mantar to commemorate Heroes’ Day, where they remember those who died in the civil war between Nigeria and Biafra from 1967-70.
Bob Otujeme (36), one of the demonstrators says, “Today, our only purpose is to mourn our dead, nothing else. Of course, we condemn the attacks. But today is about letting India know that we need to be free, and to ask for the release of our leader Nmamdi Kanu who was arrested by Nigerian police last year.”
After the two-hour long protest, 30 of them leave for a meal and a discussion at their coordinator’s home in north Delhi. In the cramped living room of 46-year-old Mazi Obioha, the smell of Jollof rice — a Biafran chicken and rice delicacy — wafts in.
The Biafran radio — founded by Kanu — has been running news of an alleged clash on Heroes’ Day in Biafra, where a few pro-Biafra protesters have been shot dead.
“These protesters died doing exactly what we were doing at Jantar Mantar — holding a peaceful rally. We meet every Sunday to discuss peaceful and legal means of attaining our freedom from Nigeria,” says Franklin Egwim (36).
The optimist in Obioha hopes that the same day next year, he will be in Biafra celebrating the Independence Day of “a country that was”. “If that doesn’t happen, I hope at least the rally in Delhi next year will have three or four times more people in attendance,” he adds.
Biafra declared independence from Nigeria on May 30, 1967. A civil war broke out soon after and waged for three years. In 1970, Biafra was reintegrated with Nigeria.