How racial attacks on foreigners and migrants destroying Brand Bengaluru’s image

By: Maitreyee Boruah
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Bengaluru, Feb 5: The news of the racist-misogynist attack on a Tanzanian woman in Bengaluru has come at a time when the city is hosting foreign delegates at the high profile global business meet, Invest Karnataka-2016.

Both the episodes are of contrasting nature. First is a horrific incident where a 21-year-old Tanzanian student was allegedly beaten up and stripped by a vigilante mob in presence of the police on Sunday (January 31).

Brand Bengaluru’s image under threat

Just a few days after the tragic attack, Karnataka state government gave a red-carpet welcome to business honchos from across the globe.

Government's Double standard

The question that immediately comes to mind is why such double standard by the Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's government?

The Congress government in the state has not only failed to stop the shocking incident, but has mishandled it after it came to light on Wednesday (February 3).

According to the Bangalore police, the complaint by the Tanzanian girl was filed only on Wednesday, even though the incident happened on Sunday. However, Bosco Kaweesi, legal adviser of the All African Students' Union told reporters that police refused to register an FIR on the night of the attack.

Prejudice towards black skin

The victim went through all the pain, horror and humiliation meted out by an unruly mob because she happened to pass by an accident spot involving another African person (a Sudanese man) in which a local woman resident was killed.

Apart from the police failure, the case once again showcases how our politicians try to misrepresent the reality.
On Thursday (February 4) at a press conference, Karnataka Home Minister G Parameshwara said that the Tanzanian woman was not stripped or paraded naked. The minister claim was in total contrast to the victim's statement to the police.

"She was stripped by a section of the mob and pushed out of a slow-moving bus that was passing by as she tried to board it to escape," said Kaweesi.

Read More: Tazanian attacked: Locals say we share your pain, but respect us too

Apartheid in Bengaluru?

Moreover, the minister also claimed that it was not a racist attack.

"This is not a racist attack. This is just a response to an accident. Bengaluru doesn't have such kind of attitude," said Parameshwara.

However, the racial angle could not be missed in this incident. The victim bore the wrath of the mob as she is also an African, like the Sudanese driver accused of killing a woman.

"Everybody is entitled to their own assessment, but there is an element of mob justice and racism. That's my assessment. She was attacked because she was black like the guy who caused the accident," said John WH Kijazi, Tanzania ambassador to India.

No respect for victim's privacy

Giving no thought about maintaining the privacy of the victim, the Home Minister revealed the name of the Tanzanian woman in front of journalists.

When a journalist asked him if he was right in naming her, the Congress leader defended his utter callousness. "It is her name. How can I hide the facts? All these things are in her complaint." The minister's conduct was a clear violation of the Supreme Court guidelines which state that the identity of a sexual assault victim should not be revealed.

On top of that, the minister defended Bengaluru police, saying police personnel acted fast in the case. Really?

Racial attacks on Africans not new in Bengaluru

Media reports often highlight how African youngsters, mostly students, face racial discrimination in the city. Last year in July, six Nigerian female students were taken into police custody when they approached a police station to register a complaint against a bus conductor, who misbehaved with them.

Instead of investigating the matter, police jumped to the conclusion that the Nigerian students were guilty. The city police in its defence say that often they act tough with the Africans as several of them are engaged in drug peddling and other anti-social activities.

Such sweeping remarks against a community are nothing, but racial prejudice.

Northeast community is also not safe from racial attacks

In April 2012, the death of a 19-year-old Manipuri boy Richard Loitam under suspicious circumstances in his college hostel in Bengaluru sparked protests demanding justice for the student. Just a few months later in August 2012, Bengaluru witnessed large-scale exodus of northeast people from the city after rumours flew thick and fast that there was a threat to their lives.

These are some of the incidents when people from the northeast came under attack in the city. Activists and people from the region termed most of these attacks as "racial" in nature as they struggle to tackle the chronic alienation they feel outside northeast.

If Bengaluru wants to thrive as India's tech or start-up hub, it has to be tolerant towards all its residents, not just the locals.

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