Tanzanian incident, racism involved

Tanzanian incident, racism involved

The recent incident involving African students in Bengaluru has evoked international attention and being treated as a racial attack. As per media reports, a Sudanese student Mohammed Aahad drove his car rashly resulting in the death of a woman on the night of January 31, 2016.

Soon a crowd gathered there and the infuriated mob dragged out Aahad, assaulted him and his friends and set their car on fire.  On hearing this incident a police vehicle came to the spot, rescued Aahad and admitted him to a hospital.

Little later a car in which another group of African students were travelling came on the same road and seeing the gathered mob made a U-turn and drove away.  Some in the mob chased this car for two km, stopped it, pulled out the students and assaulted them.  A Tanzanian girl who was in this car was allegedly manhandled. This car was also set on fire.

On hearing this incident a police patrol car arrived, and took the injured driver to a hospital. Two constables in the patrol car were deployed to control the mob. It is alleged that the mob attacked the Tanzanian girl in the presence of police.

On February 3, newspapers reported that the Tanzanian girl was stripped and paraded naked. National television channels picked up the story and the Bengaluru police was in the centre of attention. It is the version of the city police that the victim Tanzanian student had not complained about her molestation.

The Tanzanian maintained that she was attacked in the very presence of police and did not make any separate report to the police. The Bengaluru Police Commissioner has now placed under suspension an ACP and other officials for dereliction of duty which gives credence to the statement of the victim.

The questions that are being asked are whether this was an incident of racial attack and whether police are taking care of safety and security of foreigners in India. Another important question is that why police kept quiet about the assault on the Tanzanian till media raised it.

It is apparent that Aahad drove his car in a rash and negligent manner resulting in death of a woman. Whenever a road accident involving death happens, it is common knowledge that the mobs who gather beat up the driver, irrespective of his colour of skin and also damage the vehicle if police are not around. This is mob mentality.

In the second incident, the fact that a few persons gave a chase to the car in which Tanzanian was travelling, stopped it, assaulted the inmates and set the car on fire indicates an act of vendetta. This incident is definitely that of race relations.

When the police came to the spot, they shifted the driver to the hospital and saved him from mob fury. They did not take any action to protect the hapless girl and her friends. They should have called for reinforcements and ensured their safety. This, clearly, is a failure on the part of police.

Sense of prejudice

If we delve deep, it is apparent that the local community is against the African students. There is a common perception that foreign students live a lavish lifestyle and insensitive to local culture. The citizens feel that many African nationals indulge in anti-social activities including drug peddling and cheating. A common complaint from localities where African students reside is that they party late into the night and play loud music and do not care for their neighbours.

In fact, in Bengaluru itself there have been many incidents where locals and African students have rubbed each other wrongly. The incident in Delhi where a politician “raided” a predominantly African community alleging prostitution, is a case in point.

Even at the lower level of police hierarchy, there is a prejudice against the Africans. Many cops complain that Africans behave rudely in the police station. They also say that some students overstay their Visa. However, this does not absolve them from their basic duty of providing safety and security to the foreign nationals.

The main cause of such incidents is the sense of prejudice that prevails in the mind of locals against African students and nothing seems to have been made to bridge the cultural gap that exists between the two.

No effort appears to have been made to sensitise each other about the cultural differences and help each understand the other better. A sensitisation programme for not only the police but also the citizens of the area where foreigners reside, should be organised.

It has now transpired that the Tanzanian girl was not stripped naked and paraded which shows that some members of the media sensationalised the issue. More restraint is called for in media report-age. Only through better understanding such incidents against foreigners can be brought down.

(The author is retired Director General of Police, Karnataka)
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