Diplomats protest over attack on Africans in India

Thursday February 4 2016

The burnt car in which the Tanzanian girl was travelling. PHOTO | DECCAN CHRONICLE

The burnt car in which the Tanzanian girl was travelling. PHOTO | DECCAN CHRONICLE 

By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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African diplomats in New Delhi have issued a protest note following incidents in which African students in India were attacked by mobs.

On Wednesday, the African diplomatic corps in India petitioned the country’s ministry of external affairs, after a Tanzanian student was attacked by a crowd in the southern city of Bengaluru, some 2,000km from the capital New Delhi.

Kenya’s High Commissioner to India Florence Weche told the Nation on Thursday that though no Kenyan had been targeted, she was advising all Kenyan students to stay away from crowds.

“We have advised students to stay safe and report any incident affecting them to the High Commission,” she said by phone from New Delhi.

The Tanzanian student, 21, was allegedly surrounded by a mob and beaten after being mistaken to have caused an accident in which an Indian woman was killed.

The area where the attack happened is said to be home to a number of colleges popular with African students. These include Acharya College, Sri Krishna Institute of Technology, Sapthagiri College and R.R. College.

But local newspaper the Deccan Chronicle reported on Wednesday that the presence of the students in the area had caused tension between locals and foreigners, leading to a series of attacks.

ANGRY CROWD
On Sunday, a Sudanese student is said to have knocked down a 35-year-old woman. The student was reportedly drunk and his vehicle was torched by an angry crowd.

“The death of a 35-year-old woman Sunday night in an accident involving a student, who was allegedly drunk at the time, brought angry people of Ganapathi Nagar in Hesaraghatta on to the streets Monday morning and several shops in the area remained shut during the day,” the paper reported.

“They take over the roads, driving rashly, whenever they come to college and leave it, and also during the weekends. The locals fear to venture out on the roads as the police (are) never around to control them. A number of accidents take place. But in the absence of casualties they don’t get reported,” the paper quoted a resident of the area as saying.

Local police identified the Sudanese student as Mohammad Ahmad Ismail, a pharmacy student, according to the newspaper India Today. But locals claimed the driver was a Tanzanian student studying business administration at another college.

PART OF A GROUP

The Tanzanian woman was allegedly beaten and stripped on Saturday night after a mob looking for the driver of the car that knocked down the Indian woman mistook her to be part of the group.

The driver of the car and five other occupants fled the scene, although the car was later torched some five kilometres away, where it had been parked. The students were said to have been heading home after a party at the apartment of one of their friends.

But Mr Bosco Kaweesi, a legal adviser for African students in the area, told the Asian News International (ANI) channel that the woman was neither in the car nor had been part of the party.

“This girl arrived at the spot 30 minutes after the accident from a different route,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Tanzanian High Commission in India wrote a note verbale asking Indian authorities to investigate the matter and take “strong legal action” against the perpetrators.

On Wednesday evening, India’s external affairs ministry said it had directed authorities in Karnataka state, where the attacks occurred, to investigate and prosecute the matter.

“We are deeply pained over the shameful incident with a Tanzanian girl in Bengaluru. I spoke to Karnataka CM (Chief Minister). He informed me that a criminal case has been registered and four accused have been arrested,” Ms Sushma Swaraj, India’s external affairs minister, wrote on her Twitter page on Wednesday.

The ministry’s spokesman Vikas Swarup also added that the Indian government had been in touch with African diplomatic corps to assure them that their nationals would be safe.