Locals and Africans, a clash of cultures

Locals and Africans, a clash of cultures

Bengaluru has had a sea change in its socio-cultural lifestyle over the last two decades, and one reason for this has been the steady inflow of students, tourists and professionals from Africa and South East Asia. While this has added to Bengaluru’s cosmopolitan image, it has also triggered an unwelcome trend: Rising crime due to the involvement of some foreign nationals.

The City police find it tough to identify, trace, arrest and ensure conviction of such criminals due to legal hurdles galore. But the real challenge, as the police say, does not lie in preventing crimes. It is in handling sensitive developments arising out of cultural conflicts and contradictions between natives and foreigners.

“A few from Nepal are found to indulge only in crimes such as murders and robberies, while those from Bangladesh have been found to be overstaying. Only petty crimes have been reported among a few Sri Lankan and Malaysian nationals. However, a section of African youth are involved in major crimes bringing disrepute to the entire continent,” observes P. Harishekharan, Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order-East).

The police identity two major issues with certain groups of African nationals. One, their increasing involvement in diversified crimes. Second, the law and order tension arising out of the cultural conflicts and contradictions between Africans and natives, says the Additional Commissioner.

A majority of the African nationals reside in Hennur, Banaswadi, Kothanur, K R Puram and Mahadevapura areas, which were till recently, rural hamlets. A large number of local residents are traditional in their thinking and behaviour. Many local residents rent out their houses to Africans for a higher value. This, Harishekharan points out, has adversely affected the lives of other natives staying on rent in these areas.

There are now several pockets in these areas that are dominated by students from Ivory Coast, Congo, Madagascar, Zambia, Sudan, Somalia, Morocco and Uganda. Their presence is particularly felt in eateries and liquor outlets besides the streets. Locals are ruffled by their increasing presence, and this has often led to scuffles.

Cultural issues have also cropped up. According to Harishekharan, the natives strongly detest many of the African boys and girls moving in the area till late in the night. Their indulgence in drinks and music have also not gone down well with the residents. The clash of cultural backgrounds, language barriers and misinterpretations have only made things worse.

Although only a section of them are involved in crimes - visa violation, drug peddling, online cheating, nuisance and prostitution, as listed by the police -- the entire African ethnic groups are forced to bear the brunt.

Many come to India from African nations on student visa, tourist visa, medical visa and work permit visas. However, some of them fail to complete their objectives here, and overstay. To tide over this, the city police are now in the process of collecting information from the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) to develop a database about different African ethnic groups.

The City police have also chalked out an elaborate plan to bridge the gulf between the local police, local residents and foreigners--especially Africans. They have decided to constitute a Police African Nationals’ Coordination Committee comprising local residents, senior police officers and representatives from African nations. The committee will identify problems faced by Africans and problems created by Africans to suggest solutions.

The police intends to educate the African nationals about visa violations as a large number of them have been found to be ignorant about visa terms and conditions. The objective, as Harishekharan informs, is to ensure cooperation from Africans so that their interests are safeguarded. Also on the agenda is the setting up of a  Police South East Region Coordination Committee and a Police Nepalis Coordination Committee to address the problems of citizens hailing from those areas.

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