Two days after an Indian was stoned to death in Kampala by a mob protesting against a plan to set up a sugar factory in a virgin forest area, India on Saturday took up the matter with Uganda and expressed concern over the security of Indians living in the East African country.
Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma took up the issue with Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kuteesa, who assured him of firm action against the perpetrators of the violence Thursday that led to the killing of Devang Rawal.
Rawal, who is from Ahmedabad, was stoned to death by a mob that was protesting the move by The Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL), part of the Indian-owned Mehta group, to expand its sugar estates by cutting the Mabira rain forest- one of Uganda's last remaining patches of natural forest. It has been a nature reserve since 1932.
Troops had to be deployed to control the situation, after police failed to stop rioters attacking Indian-owned businesses.
Rawal's body is likely to be flown to his hometown Ahmedabad later Saturday. He was working as a sales representative with Translink (U) Ltd, a company importing products of Johnson & Johnson and Nestle products.
"The government (of Uganda) has given firm assurance that no harm will be done to Indians," Sharma told reporters here.
The external affairs ministry was in constant touch with the government of Uganda and the Indian High Commission, he said, adding that India was keeping a close watch on the situation.
Sharma, however, said that the violence was not directed against Indians, but had to be seen in its context. "It was a demonstration on a different issue and some other elements joined them and resorted to violence," he said.
Indian High Commissioner in Kampala S. Tripathi has been fully assured by the Ugandan authorities about the steps taken in the aftermath of the violence, he said.
Although many Indian-owned shops opened in Kampala Saturday, Thursday's mob attack that included Indians being dragged off motorbikes and beaten, their shops looted and a Hindu temple attacked revived bitter memories of virulent anti-India bashing by former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin who expelled nearly 75,000 Asians in 1972.
Knowing the sensitivity of such attacks and its possible impact on the Ugandan economy in which Indians, mostly traders, play a key role, President Yoweri Museveni condemned the riots and assured Indians of their safety in Uganda.
"To attack, insult or damage the property of any Ugandan or guests of Uganda is something the government will not tolerate," Museveni said in a statement Friday.
"I want to assure Ugandans that such hooliganism will not be allowed to happen again, and to warn those that do not want to follow the law they will pay heavily," Museveni added.
Meanwhile, the police swung into action and has identified those responsible for rioting and looting that hit the city Thursday.
Two Ugandans were also killed in the violence, including one who was shot dead by a security guard while he was trying to loot an Indian shop.