The Centre announced on Thursday a high-level team will visit Karnataka to probe the mob attack on a young Tanzanian woman, who was allegedly stripped, assaulted and paraded naked last week, an incident that prompted widespread revulsion with many on social media calling it “racial assault”.
State home minister G Parameshwara added to the row when he blurted out the victim’s name at a press conference and contested her accusations, as Karnataka’s Congress-led government faced a barrage of criticism from opposition parties and women’s rights groups though police said they had arrested five suspects.
The incident took place on Sunday night when the victim and three other Tanzanian students were travelling in their car near a spot in suburban Bengaluru where a Sudanese driver had run over a local woman minutes earlier.
The external affairs ministry said those behind the violence would face stringent punishment and gave assurances to African countries about the safety of 5,000 students from the continent studying in India.
“A team is going to Bengaluru tomorrow which includes the high commissioner of Tanzania, who is also the dean of the African diplomatic corps,” ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said at a media briefing.
Local police are facing flak for allegedly failing to stop the attack after the student said she pleaded with some cops at the spot for help, while one of the male victims told HT that officers had threatened them and asked them not to speak to anyone, particularly the media. There were also allegations that police initially refused to file an FIR.
Asked why he revealed the name of the victim at the press conference, Parameshwara said, “The media revealed the name first. So, I don’t see anything wrong in revealing the name.”
Terming the incident a “racial attack”, BJP national spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said Congress chief Sonia Gandhi should have reprimanded the state government and removed chief minister Siddaramaiah.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had sought a report from the state government on the issue, said senior leader Digvijaya Singh, who’s in charge of the party’s affairs in Karnataka.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who termed the incident shameful, chaired a high-level meeting in the Capital that discussed a report sent by Bengaluru’s police commissioner about actions being taken against the attackers.
Sources say the Centre is trying to ensure the incident does not cast a shadow over India’s growing engagement with Africa as African people also faced attacks in Delhi and Goa recently.
Tanzanian high commissioner John Kizagi has said the woman and her friends were assaulted “simply because they were black”.
Amid spiralling outrage over the attack, Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said the incident is a matter of shame and no racial discrimination will be tolerated in the country.
“For 200 years, India was enslaved by foreigners. We have been fighting racial discrimination. But in India itself, if there is racial discrimination, the government will take it very seriously,” he said.
(With agency inputs)