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In a disturbing example of vigilante violence and racism, a 21-year-old Tanzanian woman was dragged from her car, stripped naked, and beaten in Bangalore, India while the police reportedly watched.
On January 31, 2016, a fatal accident occurred in which a Sudanese student allegedly struck and killed a 35-year-old local woman. Enraged by the death, a mob began targeting everyone of African descent who could be found. Shortly afterward, a car with five students came on the scene and were promptly attacked by the crowd. The other students in the car were beaten and the car was then torched. While the others were able to escape, one of the occupants, a business student at the local college, was stripped naked, beaten, and paraded by the crowd. A bystander who tried to offer the woman a t-shirt was beaten as well. When she tried to escape by entering a nearby bus, the other passengers forced her out. That same evening, local residents went to houses where African students were known to live and harassed them while also stopping vehicles in the street to see if Africans were driving them.
Following the incident, the woman attempted to lay charges but the police refused to register the case. A friend, Bosco Owais, who is a legal advisor to the All-Indian International Students Association assisted her in pressuring police to act. “My friend approached the Peenya police after the attack but they refused to register a case," Owais said, in an interview with the media. "Later, we had to go to the top brass to have the case registered. I understand that those people were angry, but how can they beat up an innocent woman?"
In the days that followed, African students hid in their homes for fear of being attacked. Unable to attend classes, the students have little protection from mob violence. Racism directed against African students is nothing new in India. Anyone with a dark skin is treated with much the same contempt traditionally reserved for members of the "untouchable" Dalit caste who are also dark-skinned. Black men are often regarded as criminals while black women are seen as sex workers.
A video posted to YouTube in 2015 highlights the open harassment faced by many Africans in India. In the video, many Africans describe their own experiences with racism, including incidents of being spit upon, laughed at, verbally abused, or treated as dangerous. Vigilante violence directed at drivers who cause fatalities also remains extremely common and such cases often go unsolved given the tacit approval of many police forces in parts of India.
While comments on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook demonstrate the outrage many people have over this latest incident, it seems questionable whether the victim in this case will receive any real justice. Police have confirmed that a complaint was laid though even identifying who took part in the mob, let alone successfully prosecuting them, may well prove to be impossible.
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