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A Tanzanian Woman's Brutal Mob Assault Highlights Racism in India

Screenshot of the torched car from which Tanzanian students were dragged out and beaten.

Screenshot of the torched car from which Tanzanian students were dragged out and beaten.

A 21-year-old Tanzanian student was violently assaulted in Bangalore, India, on 31 January 2016 by a mob in a disturbing instance of vigilantism and racism.

The mob, which targeted her after a Sudanese student allegedly hit and killed a 35-year-old woman while driving in the area, beat her, stripped off her clothing and paraded her around naked while the police reportedly watched. The Tanzanian student, who is a second year business student at Acharya College, came to the spot travelling in another car along with four others some 30 minutes afterward and was not even remotely connected to the accident.

Nevertheless, the mob forced the students out, beat the driver and torched their car. They robbed them of their belongings, then proceeded to strip the girl naked. The incident only hit the news on 3 February after she went to the local police and they refused at first to register the case.

The horde was so enraged that they beat someone from the crowd who had offered her a T-shirt to cover up with. When the young woman then tried to enter a local bus nearby, the passengers pushed her back down into the hands of the mob.

The violence sparked a flood of condemnations on Twitter:

Racism against people of dark skin in India

According to Bosco Kaweesi, a legal adviser for the All African Students in Bengaluru, the frenzy continued into the night, as local residents went to houses where African students live and harassed them. He said they also stopped vehicles in the street to check if the occupants were African-looking. The African student community is still scared and students are reluctant to come out in the open.

Racism against dark skin exists in India. Black men are dogged by the assumption that they are violent or a criminal, and black women that they are sex workers. As Crystal Kushwaha, an American woman married to an Indian man, explained on question-and-answer site Quora:

[Indians] favor light skin, and in turn, dislike dark skin. Which leads to prejudice against their own race (those with dark skin), as well as others with dark skin.

A video uploaded to YouTube by India Times in April 2015 offers insight into the kinds of encounters with racism some Africans have in India, including being spit at, pointed at, laughed at, called offensive names and treated as dangerous:

One man explains witnessing that racism be passed on from parent to child:

There was a lady and the child was having issues with the mother. And the mother was like come on, chalo, let's go, and the baby was actually disturbing the mother. She turned and saw me coming behind them and the only thing that she could use to scare the child was to tell the child to look at me, said “See! This person is going to take you away. Look at him, he's going to take you away.” What kind of scaring is that? Because a child like that will grow up not wanting to associate with any kind of black person.

‘Travesty of all things humane and Indian’

Social media users also pointed out other factors at play, such as police tolerance for mob justice. Nitin Bangera commented in Facebook:

This Bangalore case of the Tanzanian woman reminds me of many conversations with friends about road accidents, A lot of people I've had hypothetical chats with say that if they ever knock somebody over in India, they'd flee immediately Or flee immediately to the police station even, but they would not stay at the scene at all, because “dude the mob will kill you”
If such incidents happens in Bangalore like places, we all need to rethink what kind of society we are living in.

While VC John said:

This is a blatant travesty of all things humane and Indian! The police who refused to take a complaint need to be fired and investigated.

Supriya Nair believed the assault case mimics violence based on social caste:

Stripping and parading a young black woman for a made-up reason is textbook upper-caste violence, replicated on the basis of race.

Ankit Singh cried in anguish:

India! Tolerant India! We are a tolerant nation with a thing for parading women naked and torching stuff. Hey, at least we didnt kill her! If this was in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq or some other country, the girl would have been killed. We spared her life! India! Tolerant India!


  • R is for

    “Stripping and parading a young black woman for a made-up reason is
    textbook upper-caste violence
    , replicated on the basis of race.”

    …except that Shabana (the woman run over) was Muslim, as were many of the villagers in the mob, so I highly doubt that caste was the driving force in all of this? It sounds like Supriya Nair is derailing in an attempt to make this the work of the Hindutva. And while I have no fondness for them or their agenda, it’s not casteism, it’s racism, plain and simple. These East African students were targeted purely for being East Africans, and they’d be attacked by any Indian irrespective of caste or religion, because that is just how pervasive anti-blackness is across the Subcontinent.

  • Tina Acharya

    its really a horrible incident and surely one that is enough to tarnish the image of my Country India. I hope such incidents seldom happen. i agree that It is a fact that Indians are inherently racist, that is why our matrimonial ads seek out fair-complexioned brides and fair n lovely is one of the most popular brand. having said that I also feel…racism is a global phenomenon a negative one though. It has its existence in each a every country with some form or other. isn’t it??

  • Mariaeugenia

    Many Southern Indians are very dark skinned and hate being taken for Blacks, which they are by foreigners from the West

  • […] in January, a 21-year-old Tanzanian woman studying in India was beaten, stripped and paraded naked in the streets of the city of Bangalore by a mob because they incorrectly thought her car had run […]

  • […] Januari, mwanamke wa ki-Tanzania mwenye miaka 21 anayesoma India alipigwa, kuvuliwa nguo na kutembezwa akiwa uchi kwenye mitaa ya jiji la Bangalore na wahuni kwa sababu walidhani gari lake lilikuwa limemgonga na […]

  • […] الثاني، ضُربت إمرأة تنزانية تدرس في الهند وخُلعت ملابسها ومُثل بها عارية في شوارع مدينة بنجالور من قبل عصابة […]

  • […] in January, a 21-year-old Tanzanian woman studying in India was beaten, stripped and paraded naked in the streets of the city of Bangalore by a mob because they incorrectly thought her car had run […]

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