The Tanzanian high commissioner to India on Friday backed the steps taken by the government in connection with the alleged assault and stripping of a Tanzanian student in Bengaluru even as four more persons were arrested and two police officials suspended.
Flying in from Delhi, a team from comprising Tanzanian envoy John W H Kijazi, also the dean of the African Diplomatic Corps, and External Affairs Ministry officials on Friday met state officials to get their account and African students in a confidence building measure.
Emerging after meeting state Home Minister G Parameshwara and home department officials, Kijazi said, “We are very much impressed with the action already taken.”
“We must focus on the future. We believe that the local communities and the African community can live in harmony,” he said.
To a question if he was ruling out racism, the envoy said, “We have not come here to discuss the issues of racism. I am looking at the current situation and the future.”
Nine persons, including four last night, have so far been arrested ever since the Sunday night incident in which the 21-year old Tanzanian student faced mob fury in vigilante justice after a Sudanese driving a car in an alleged drunken state struck a couple, killing a woman on the spot.
Inspector Pravin Babu had been suspended for dereliction of duty and Constable Manjunath for not taking action even though he was present at the spot, Bengaluru Police Commissioner N S Megharikh said, as police faced intense heat amidst accusations that they did not act promptly and swiftly.
The four accused were arrested last night and booked for assault, unlawful assembly, arson, rioting and outraging a woman’s modesty, Megharikh said.
Police said they were interrogating the suspects and some more people might be arrested.
Asked whether one of the arrested was a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Megharikh said, “He is a panchayat member.”
“We went into the facts of the situation, and we are very clear that we are very much impressed by the action of the government. Some confidence (building) measures have already been taken so that such incidents do not happen. Some of the officials have been suspended and action initiated against some others,” Kijazi said.
Asked about his message to the students of his country, he said, “Follow the laws of the country. Live in harmony with local people. Respect the leadership of the state. Respect the leadership of local communities. But we have a message for local community as well.”
Upset over the incident, Tanzania had sent a note verbale to India.
Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary (States) Partha Sathpathy said the MEA had mandated the team to come here primarily to assist the Tanzanian high commissioner in his interactions with state government.
He said, “We have two basic objectives one is to interact with the state government and find out and try to impress upon them the necessity to take action against the people who were responsible for this horrendous event.”
“The second objective was to make sure that the government in collaboration with community and the students take the necessary steps so that such incident does not repeat ever again,” he said.
Stating that they were here with a larger picture in mind, the MEA official said, “We wanted to convey this image, this impression to the foreign student community here, especially our African friends, that we are concerned about their safety and security.”
“They are always welcome here,” he added.
He also thanked Karnataka government and its authorities for the cooperation extended in giving ‘a clearer picture’.
He said, “There is no conflict at all, this is a process in which we are collaborating and working cooperatively so that this event doesn’t ever happen again.”
The team also included director Eastern and Southern Africa in the MEA and the regional director of Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
Parameshwara said the entire incident and the action taken by the state government were explained to the Tanzanian envoy and the MEA officials.
“We have also explained the long-term action plan to them considering the foreign students, particularly the African students, about their safety, peaceful co-existence along with the community and they are convinced about it,” he said.
Asked about overstaying foreign students, he said he had asked officials to make verifications in that regard.
“We will keep in touch with the MEA and respective consulates and institutions and inform them and take necessary steps,” he said.
Meanwhile, Union Law Minister Sadananda Gowda asked the Karnataka government to form a special squad to keep a watch on foreign students, in the wake of the Sunday incident.
Attacking the Congress-led state government for not acting on locals’ complaint regarding the ‘wrong’ behaviour of certain foreign students, he sought the central government’s intervention to find the truth about the assault.
He also said that innocent people should not be arrested as was being alleged by the locals.
Speaking to reporters after visiting the family of a woman who was mowed down by a car driven by a Sudanese, which led to the Tanzanian student being attacked, he said, “I have come to know that more than thousands of students are staying here and functioning even after their visa having expired.”
Facing attack by the BJP for being ‘silent’, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said strict action would be taken in the incident and he had told the chief minister that ‘strict action is to be taken and it will be taken’.
“I condemn 100 per cent this type of action,” Rahul told reporters in New Delhi, adding he spoke to the party general secretary in-charge of Karnataka to look into the matter and speak to the Chief Minister.
Image: Tanzania's High Commissioner to India John Kijazi, right, with Karnataka home minister G Parameshwara, during a visit to Bengaluru on Friday. Photograph: Shailendra Bhojak/ PTI Photo