New Delhi: Are Indians racists? The question appeared to dominate social media and prime-time TV shows in the country on Wednesday after a disturbing incident this week.
A 21-year-old Tanzanian student in Bangalore, also known as Bengaluru, in southern India told police that a mob pulled her out of her car before setting it ablaze on Sunday night. She said the mob then beat her up, molested and stripped her, and paraded her naked.
A police constable at the scene stood and watched the violence but did not come to her aid, the victim told police on Wednesday.
On Sunday, the business management student was driving past the Ganapathinagar neighbourhood in the northern part of the high-tech city 30 minutes after a drunken Sudanese driver had knocked down an Indian woman and killed her. Angry residents had set fire to his car and beaten the Sudanese student before he managed to flee.
Visuals from last Sunday of the accident site in Bengaluru where a Tanzanian student was allegedly assaulted by mob. pic.twitter.com/UMhC4IGhJY— ANI (@ANI_news) February 3, 2016
21-year-old Tanzanian student allegedly assaulted by mob after being mistaken to have caused an accident in B'luru pic.twitter.com/jln2JaOtrF— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) February 3, 2016
Several groups of residents were still raging on the street when the Tanzanian student drove by with her friends, according to reports. Eyewitnesses told reporters that when the residents saw another car with African students, they set upon it, too. They pulled out all the students and thrashed them, the reports said.
"The girl was overpowered by the mob. They stripped her naked," Bosco Kaweesi, adviser to the All Africans Students' Union, told reporters in Bangalore. "And she tried to enter a bus, the passengers pushed her outside. She tried to get an auto-rickshaw, they refused to take her. And she was running up and down when she actually had no clothes on."
The neighbourhood has many African students living in rented rooms and studying in colleges nearby.
"The mob's action was solely driven by the woman's race. What does this say about India?" asked an essay in the news portal Scroll.in.
India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted: "We are deeply pained over the shameful incident with a Tanzanian girl in Bengaluru." She added that she has asked the local government to "ensure safety and security of all foreign students and stringent punishment for the guilty".
This is not the first time that students from African nations have been assaulted in Indian cities.
In 2014, a local legislator led a vigilante mob of residents who thrashed and abused four Nigerian women on the unproven allegation that they were running a drug and prostitution racket.
In 2013, people at the popular beach destination of Goa put up signs reading "Say No to Nigerians, Say No to Drugs", and likened them to wild animals and cancer.
"Right now we are scared of every Indian around us," the Tanzanian student said by phone to India Today news channel.
Bangalore's police commissioner, N. S. Megharikh, told reporters that his department has "zero tolerance for such kind of mob mindset".
"We will definitely arrest the culprits immediately," Mr Megharikh said. "We are yet to identify who are the people."