Shame Bengaluru, shun racism

It was shameful that a young Tanzanian girl student was assaulted, stripped and made to run around on the streets of Bengaluru by a mob of people on Sunday. It is difficult to imagine that the propensity for such unruly and uncivilised conduct lurks just below the skin of people and under the surface of a city which claims to be modern, cosmopolitan and tolerant. There cannot be any reason or provocation that can justify such heinous conduct. It has again tainted Bengaluru’s name and image, as some similar incidents have done in the past. The girl and her friends were passing the spot where an accident involving a car driven by a Sudanese student had taken place. One person had been killed in the accident. The Tanzanian student and her friends were caught by a mob on the scene, assaulted and their car set on fire. A person who offered the girl a shirt was also attacked.

The crime and shame were compounded by the response of the police who refused to file an FIR when the students reported the matter. They were also pushed out of a bus when they tried to flee the scene. The police claim that it was only a case of road rage cannot be accepted. It cannot be denied that there was a racial element in the conduct of the mob. Foreign students in Bengaluru are frequently victims of prejudice, discrimination, improper behaviour and insults. Even students and people from the North-East are subjected to ill treatment and discrimination. It is not long ago that people from the North-East made an exodus from the city for fear that they would be attacked. The fear was unfounded, but the psychology was real, based on their experience in the city. Foreign students also have to live with such fear, and many of them have expressed it.The people who attacked the girl and outraged her modesty should be punished under the law.

Action should be taken against the policemen who refused to register her complaint. Those who should have protected her actually sided with the people who attacked and insulted her. The matter has also become a diplomatic issue with the Tanzanian embassy taking it up and India expressing regret over the matter to that country. But beyond law and diplomacy, it is a human issue. It is disgraceful that such an incident happened in the city. Bengaluru owes an apology to the girl. It should also assure itself and the world that no one would be discriminated against on the basis of race, colour or appearance.
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