Bengaluru police were left red-faced on Wednesday after allegedly trying to hush up a case of racial attack on a group of Ivory Coast nationals, as an FIR was finally lodged when one of the heavily-bandaged victims appeared on local media.
CCTV footage emerged later, showing the assault was part of a mini riot in Bengaluru’s Byrathi area.
Employees of a bar, who spoke to HT on the condition of anonymity, said there was total mayhem in the locality on Monday night when groups of men armed with sticks, logs, metal rods and rocks attacked several African males.
"We would have happily shared the CCTV footage with police but they did not show any interest. They just made sure that we downed shutters and then left, never to return,” one of the employees said.
Tensions between Africans and local residents have been simmering for a while in Byrathi, sources said.
Based on information from the bar employees, HT managed to track down another victim, who named a senior IPS officer and alleged that he was threatened. “Please leave me alone,” the man said, requesting anonymity.
State home minister KJ George, who visited the spot on Wednesday following sustained media coverage of the incident, denied that police tried to cover up the issue.
“There was a minor misunderstanding between locals and Africans. It is unfortunate. But I have instructed police to register a case,” he said.
Police officials had initially told the media the victims did not wish to file a complaint.
Hope Kabishi, a 23-year-old student from Congo who lives opposite the local police station, told HT, “I saw a large group of Indians loudly abusing a few Africans in front of police. The cops were not doing anything to stop them. One senior police officer was [instead] shouting at an African man who was bleeding.”
Following the attack, security was tightened in the area and patrolling was also intensified, said sources.
"Trust me, there was no effort to cover up,” said police commissioner MN Reddi. “The additional commissioner tried his best to convince the victim to file a complaint but failed. Such allegations are baseless.”
However, he could not explain the delay in filing the FIR and why police initially denied the entire episode.
Rutarwa Moses, president of the association of African students in India, who spoke to some of the victims, alleged they were pressurised by police to not file an FIR.
Terming the attacks “evil” and “inhuman”, Moses said, “After being beaten like animals they approached the police only to be threatened again.”