The mysterious death of Ifeanyi Madu, a Nigerian national, near Kothanur, has drawn mixed reactions from the African community residing in the city with many students saying that the recent incident, one in a chain of many, has left them feeling scared and unsafe. Jacqueline Abela Banyenza, a native of Tanzania and student of CMR College of Law, residing in Banaswadi, says, “I thought Bengaluru was a safe place but I don’t feel the same anymore. My neighbours and friends have advised me to stay indoors after dark. Rather than depending on someone else, I feel that I myself should take full responsibility of my safety and security.”
Safety is just one of the many concerns that people of this community have. Adesina T Paul from Democratic Republic of the Congo says, “The autorickshaw drivers usually never start the meter and we are expected to pay whatever they ask for. Also, people here are scared to give their homes on rent to us.” Most Africans say they are forced to pay high rents because they find it hard to get a place to stay. Stephen Kalala, from the Democratic Republic of Congo and a student of CMRIMS, says, “I don’t know why people here think that we have a lot of money and expect us to pay more than the actual price for everything. Not everybody from our community is rich. This is a false notion and has to change.”
Stephen adds, “People here are not very open and welcoming towards us. I am very cautious about who I talk to and where I go.” But not everybody from this community faces problems. Patrick M N, from the Democratic Republic of Congo and a student of Indian Academy, chose to come here to pursue his higher studies. “I live with my sister and cousins, so I feel very safe and secure. I also use the BMTC buses to travel around the city and I’ve never faced any problems till now. It is important how you conduct yourself,” says Patrick.
Emilia Meidy, from Angola and a student of the same college, has lived in Goa before coming to Bengaluru. “I go out at night only in the company of my brother or some male friend. I believe that rules are meant to be followed and everyone must follow them, irrespective of who they are,” says Emilia. But the recent incidents have highlighted another aspect of the issue. While some African nationals return after the completion of their studies, there are others who stay beyond the dates mentioned in their visa.
The Bengaluru City Police have heightened surveillance in and around areas where the African nationals are residing in large numbers. A senior officer with Intelligence (Bengaluru City Police), who did not wish to be named, says, “There are foreign nationals who stay here and carry on with their regular work but some others engage in risky activities.” He also says that the Bengaluru Police has a record of foreigners residing in the city and their details. “Foreigners who are found overstaying in the city will be deported immediately or the case will be refered to Foreigners Regional Registration Office for further action. But it is difficult for the police to keep track of who has overstayed and who has not,” informs the senior officer.