On May 20, Congolese man named Masunda Kitada Oliver was beaten to death by a group of Indian men following a fight over an auto-rickshaw in Delhi. In the week that followed, seven African nationals were attacked in three separate incidents in the city, triggering outrage once again and bringing into the focus the treatment of Africans in India.
But too often, the outrage isn't followed up by action against attackers. That's obvious from the incident in Bengaluru four months ago that has now been largely forgotten.
On the night of January 31, a dragged a group of Tanzanian students out of a car and attacked them on the road. The incident was triggered by a road accident near the Acharya Institute of Technology, a college on the outskirts of the city with a large population of students from several African countries. A Sudanese man speeding down the narrow Acharya Road to the college hit a couple with his car, killing a woman on the spot and injuring her husband. A crowd of people who gathered at the site of the accident beat the driver and set fire to his car.
Half an hour later and half a kilometre away along the same road, a mob accosted a group of Tanzanian students and dragged them out of their car, assuming that they were involved in the accident. A 21-year-woman who was among the group later claimed that the mob pushed her around, beat her and tore her clothes. While the students fled to a nearby hospital, the mob set their car ablaze too.
Four months on, there has been little progress in the case.
Hitting a wall
“We filed the case but nothing is going on," said Aziz Ali Seif, who was among the group in the car that night. "They [police] never called me back. We don’t know what is going on with the case.”
Seif said that he and his friends submitted statements about the incident at the Peenya police station in Bengaluru. The police had told them that they would be compensated for their losses in the attack, but they have heard nothing since.
In the days following the assault, students from African countries feared for the safety and many avoided attending college, preferring to stay put in their homes and dorms. Meetings were called at Acharya Institute with foreign student bodies, the management and representatives from embassies of African countries.
Bosco Kaweesi, who acted as a legal advisor to the Tanzanian students in the initial stages of the case, said that the police stepped in to ease the tension after the incident. In the week after the attack, five people were arrested and six policemen suspended for dereliction of duty while investigating the incident.
Mohamad Nahbill, a student at the college and spokesman for the African Committee of Acharya, is still trying to get updates about the case from the police. “When we ask them if they have found any culprits regarding the mob attack, they say 'no, not yet'. We see how much time the inquiry is taking,” he said. “The lady who was attacked is graduating and about to go back to her country. We must ask if justice been served?”
Meanwhile, life has gone on as usual at the college, said Aziz, with people attending their classes and exams. Other students say that there are always minor tensions with people living in the area.
“If you pass there at night, African students are still scared that they may be stopped at any time,” said Nahbill. “Around a month ago, there was a case next to Acharya [Institute] of two guys coming on a bike and they were attacked by some locals.”
But Kaweesi credits the police with making efforts to help foreign students, especially from Africa, encouraging them to approach the police if they have problems and making police stations accessible to them.
Kaweesi thinks there have been some positive changes since the January attack. He recounted another road accident that occurred a month ago in the city. “An African boy and an Indian man, both on motorbikes, collided," he said. "The public came, and normally in such incidents, they won't listen to anyone and straight away start hitting the black person. But that did not happen in Kammanahalli last month. The public carried both injured to the hospital and called the police to come and take the statement.”