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Monday, September 27, 2021

Congolese national’s alleged custodial death: Outreach programmes for Africans failing, community members feel

Barely a few days before Covid-19 hit the country, Bengaluru City Police had set up an exclusive grievance redressal desk for African nationals called ‘Hello Africa Desk’ in the city.

Written by Darshan Devaiah BP | Bengaluru |
Updated: August 3, 2021 9:33:20 pm
Police wield their batons against a demonstrator during a protest after the death of Joel Shindani Malu, a Congolese man, in Bengaluru. (Reuters)

On the sidelines of Monday’s violent protest by African nationals in front of J C Nagar police station, members of the community feel the outreach programmes introduced to bridge the apparent gap between the foreign nationals and Bengaluru Police are failing to create any impact.

Protests broke out Monday after Joel Shindani Malu (27), a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, died after he was detained early morning for allegedly possessing narcotic substances. In custody, a couple of hours later, he complained of chest pain and was rushed to a private hospital where he died allegedly of cardiac arrest.

City Police Commissioner Kamal Pant had said one of the protesters assaulted an officer, which resulted in the lathi charge. No one sustained major injuries.

Bengaluru: African nationals hold posters during a protest over the death of Joan Joel Malu, a native of Congo, who was detained by police for allegedly possessing narcotic substances, in Bengaluru, Monday, Aug 2, 2021. (PTI)

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Bosco Kaweesi, president of All Africa Students’ Association Bengaluru and Pan-African Federation and Students’ Union India, said, “The African community in Bengaluru will not accept what happened Monday in front of the police station. Police should handle such things in a peaceful manner.”

Bosco, who is also the legal adviser of the outfit, said for such incidents to come down, outreach programmes should once again be started to maintain peace between the members of the community and police. “Earlier, various initiatives were taken by senior Bengaluru police officials which had helped us a lot. Unfortunately, when they were transferred, the initiatives faded out,” Bosco added.

Monday’s protest was not the first the city witnessed in recent times. In May this year, 38-year-old Nigerian national Peter Ofor was found dead in a canal near Kalkere Lake in Ramamurthy Nagar of East Bengaluru, following which, members of the African community had protested, seeking a detailed inquiry.

An African national during a protest over the death of Joan Joel Malu, a native of Congo, who was detained by police for allegedly possessing narcotic substances, in Bengaluru, Monday, Aug 2, 2021. (PTI)

Speaking to indianexpress.com, a senior police officer on condition of anonymity, said, “We often receive complaints of African nationals possessing contrabands and the issue of overstaying after expiry of Visas is also a problem among the members of the community.”

The pandemic has also hit the outreach programmes. Barely a few days before Covid-19 hit the country, Bengaluru City Police had set up an exclusive grievance redressal desk for African nationals called ‘Hello Africa Desk’ in the city.

According to police, the desk was set up to act as a communication bridge between Bengaluru Police and the large number of Africans living in the city but officials said that initiative has lost steam due to the pandemic.

Bengaluru city has a large African population living mainly in K R Puram, Kammanahalli, HBR Layout, Hennur, Halasuru and Indiranagar in east Bengaluru and Soladevanahalli, Peenya, Hessarghatta Main Road in North Bengaluru.

Earlier, Bengaluru Police had formed the African Peace Coordination Committee, which consisted of African students of various nationalities, police officials, officials of Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) and the education department. Any conflict involving African nationals in the city was heard in this forum.

Meanwhile, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said Bengaluru City Police have handled the demonstration with utmost tolerance.

“Despite violent activities by a group of African nationals in J C Nagar on Monday, Bengaluru police handled the incident very patiently,” he said on Monday night from Delhi. He added, “We are receiving a number of complaints involving African nationals in drug peddling. The police have been taking steps to curb such activities.”

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