Bengaluru: Five persons have been arrested for the alleged assault and stripping of a Tanzanian woman in Bengaluru with the Karnataka government on Thursday saying it viewed the incident 'seriously' but rejected suggestions that it was a racial attack.
As the incident on Sunday night took a serious diplomatic turn, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said five men had been arrested and that Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj spoke to him. A report would be sent to her, he said. "Case has been registered, five of them (accused) have been arrested. Sushma Swaraj also spoke to me, I will also be sending her a report through my Chief Secretary," he told reporters at 'Invest Karnataka 2016', a global investors meet, in Bengaluru.
The Chief Minister said he has asked the police to conduct an inquiry on why complaint was not taken immediately. "I have asked them to take action against officials if there is any fault on their part," he said.
The 21-year-old Tanzanian woman student was allegedly beaten up and stripped by a mob in a case of 'mistaken identity' after a woman was mowed down by a car in Bengaluru. She was reportedly dragged out of the car in which she was seated along with her three friends when she reached the accident spot mistaking them to have caused the fatal accident though a Sudanese was involved in it, police said.
Swaraj had described it as a 'shameful incident' and spoken to Siddaramaiah, seeking stringent punishment for the guilty, while the High Commission of Tanzania had sent a Note Verbale to the External Affairs Ministry on the issue.
Voicing concern over the incident, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday sought a report from the Karnataka government, according to party General Secretary Digvijay Singh, in charge of Congress affairs in the state. "Rahul Gandhi asks Karnataka Govt to explain and send report immediately," Singh said in a series of tweets. But asked if the Congress high command has sought a report, Siddaramaiah said, "Why will high command seek report on everything? It is you people who are saying..."
State Home Minister G Parameshwara told a press meet that five persons had been arrested and more arrests would follow depending on the inquiry.
The minister, who named the victim, denied that the Tanzanian woman was paraded naked saying, "No such thing happened." He also said, "This is definitely not a racial attack" and maintained that the incident was a response to an accident that had happened earlier, in which a Sudanese driving a car in an alleged drunken state had mowed down a woman and injured her husband seriously.
Noting that the government has taken the case 'seriously', he said, "If there are any lapses on the part of police officials, we will take very serious action, including suspension."
According to All African Students Union's Legal Adviser Bosco Kaweesi, the woman student was stripped by a section of the mob and pushed out of a slow-moving bus that was passing by as she tried to board it to escape. "It is very clear from the report (submitted by police) that no such thing (being paraded naked) happened," Parameshwara said.
He said the City Crime Branch would probe the incident and it had been communicated to the Ministry of External Affairs. "We treat it (the incident) seriously. We will not take it casually," the Home Minister said.
Noting that 12,000 foreign students are studying in Bengaluru, he said it was the duty of the government to protect them. "If the accident had not occurred, this (incident) would not have happened," he said. He said no student gave a complaint or spoke about the incident involving the Tanzanian woman for two days.
Later, she had given a statement to police which had been recorded. He said the Tanzanian student, doing MBA, was beaten up after the car in which she was travelling with three other occupants was stopped by the mob. Her clothes were also pulled, he said, adding, a police patrol party which reached there rushed her to a hospital. She tried to board a bus but the passengers inside allegedly forced her not to do so.
Parameshwara said the Sudanese student, whose name was given as Mohammed Ahmed Ismail, was driving the car in a drunken state and the vehicle hit two pedestrians with the woman dying on-the-spot and her husband being injured. Ismail was also injured and shifted to hospital.
Following the fatal accident, hundreds of people gathered and set the car on fire, he said.
Subsequently, the Tanzanian woman student and three others came to a spot about a km away from the accident site, when they were surrounded by the mob.