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Tanzanian student case: Was Bangalore shamed without complete information?

Yesterday, social media was aghast over the story of a female Tanzanian student who was allegedly beaten, stripped, paraded naked and molested by an irate crowd on the outskirts of Bangalore. Most people reacted with dismay and pain that such “racist” behaviour was seen even today. Bangalore residents were shamed and so also the police of Bangalore for their lackadaisical attitude. The police force seems to have definitely faltered at multiple stages, but the actual chain of events and the incident is now being doubted.

The entire incident took place on 31st January 2016, and was first reported on 1st February 2016. Here are 3 news reports from that day, Times of India, The New Indian Express and Deccan Herald. There are a few common aspects which all three of these news reports highlight:

  1. 2 speeding cars belonging to African students were involved in the matter.
  2. 1 of the cars that was rashly driven by a Sudanese student who was identified as Mohammed Ismail knocked down Shabana Taj, and killed her on the spot
  3. Angry passers-by caught hold of the students and thrashed them. They also set both cars on fire.

The Times of India and New Indian Express reports did not mention any female Tanzanian student. The Deccan Herald report, which was more detailed, reported that the cops claimed the mob thrashed a group of two boys and a girl from Tanzania mistaking them to be Ismail’s friends. The report further said that these 3 students were in the second car.

Interestingly none of these preliminary reports mentioned that a Tanzanian female student was stripped, paraded naked and molested. It is also unclear whether the members of the 2 cars were part of the same group or not.

Around 2 days later, that is on 3rd February 2016, a Deccan Chronicle report was probably the first to bring in the angle of the girl being paraded naked. This incident was first highlighted by the lawyer of these Tanzanian students:

“She’s Tanzanian, the man who caused the accident comes from Sudan, they didn’t even know each other,” said Bosco Kaweesi, Legal Adviser, All African Students Union in Bengaluru.

“The scared students were forced out of the car and then the car was set ablaze. The driver of the second car identified as Micah S Pundugu was beaten up black and blue by the mob who then stripped the girl student. When someone from the crowd offered her a T-Shirt to save her modesty, that man too was beaten up by the mob. She later, with her torn clothes, tried to enter a BMTC bus that had slowed down nearby, but the passengers in the bus pushed her back down on to the road,” Kaweesi told DC adding, “Micah recounted that people were streaming out from buses, auto-rickshaws and charging towards them, punching and kicking them.”

Even the part which claimed that the car with the girl arrived 30 minutes after the incident, was told to the Deccan Chronicle by the local African Association, and this “fact” too came out only 2 days after the initial reports.

How is it that such a serious matter, involving the stripping of a woman, was not reported on the 1st of February itself? Also, this stripping incident appears only in the version of the African’s and their lawyers. Local residents from the area are saying that while the accident, the burning of cars did happen, they did not hear anything about a girl being stripped naked:

tanzanian girl

There is no denying that an accident did happen, a violent mob thrashed some African students and burnt their cars, but the part which claims a female was “paraded naked” seems to be unsubstantiated as of now. The delay in this aspect coming out, the fact that this is based solely on the version of the girl’s lawyer, that the locals do not believe this version and the fact that there seems to be no video of such an incident, in the age of smartphones, all these issues say that at least as of now, there is reason to doubt this part of the story.

Social media unfortunately never waits for the entire facts to come out. It will be interesting to see how much of this story really happened. This incident warrants serious investigation, however, it doesn’t warrant such scandalous headlines when a particular aspect is doubtful. It doesn’t mean that the crime, without stripping, is of a non-serious nature. Mob mentality remains a threat all over India, and this time it happened in Bangalore.

UPDATE: Latest news report published by Bangalore Mirror quotes one of the African nationals who was assaulted. While recounting what happened to the Tanzanian girl, he is quoted as saying:

She had her gym pants on so she was not completely naked, but the hooligans were intent on thrashing and humiliating us. While recounting her horror to us later, she said it happened during the mob attack. She was traumatised, but said it did not seem like the mob intended to sexually assault her.

Apart from the above account, the Karnataka DGP has also issued a statement claiming that the Tanzanian girl had not claimed to have been stripped and paraded naked:

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