Twenty-seven-year-old Rimbare Tedebe, a Chad national decided to come to Bangalore in November 2012 as he thought that the Silicon city was known for its good weather and its “friendly” people. But eight months later, he said that the only impression of the city that remains is its good weather.
Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Tedebe, who is pursuing a certificate course in computer science, said: “We feel that people do not want us to stay here. I will catch a flight back to my country the day I finish my course.”
Following the alleged racially-motivated attack on 44-year-old Chad national Wandoh Timothy, an IT professional, on July 9, scores of African students have been visiting his home at Hennur here. His wife, Beala Wandoh, said that he has turned into a “counsellor” after the incident, which has triggered scores of students to speak out about various forms of racial discrimination that takes place in the city.
Some of the students who had gathered at Mr. Timothy’s house said that discrimination existed in various forms. It ranged from quoting high rent for accommodation to charging exorbitant fees at educational institutes, and even different forms of physical assault.
Stating that the rights of the African student were being trampled upon, Simo Stephane, a Cameroon national studying for an engineering degree, said that educational institutes collect higher fees from African students. “The rent is also higher which makes it difficult for students like us to survive in the city.”
Gires Sob, another Cameroon national, studying in Kristu Jayanti College in the city, said: “Our being in the city is an investment for our family. Many of our parents sell farm lands and obtain bank loans to send us here for studies”
Responding to the allegations against institutes overcharging fees, a representative from the East West Institute of Technology which has a few African nationals studying said: “All foreign students pay a fee higher than local students. The extra fee goes towards eligibility fee and registration fee, but this fee is nominal and the difference in fee structure is nominal”.
Sarala Unnikrishan, Regional Director of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, which has funded over hundred African students said that the students had come to Bangalore from various countries such as Kenya, Chad, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi. “African students have been coming to Bangalore since 1980s as the quality of education is good. Earlier, they used to enrol themselves for BA and B. Com. Nowadays, they are taking up MBA, B.Sc. and law courses as well”.
Students point out that various academic institutes from Bangalore also go to African countries to lure them to their institutes.
Meanwhile, the coordinator for Association of African Students in India, Mbaya Guy Davis said African students are often victimised as they are stereotyped and portrayed in the negative light. “If one African is involved in a crime, people have begun generalising that all Africans are prone to commit crimes”
The association hopes that conducting regular meetings with Africans, representatives of educational institutions and Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) would help in addressing the issue to a certain extent. Moreover, he urged that people from his community should report instances of discrimination to the police so that the discrimination was accounted for.
However, students like Tedebe feel that people normally take law into their hands in times of a conflict or a clash. “There is no time to ask the police to intervene. Even if the police intervene there is a bias against us which works to our disadvantage.”
Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Kamal Pant said that the primary underlying factors for such incidents are cultural differences and stereotyped impressions of the community. “Some instances in which members of the community have clashed with the law enforcement have also contributed to such impressions. Along with this, many of them who come on student visas continue to stay in the country even after having completed education. It is not that all members of the community are to blame but these stereotyped impressions have led to clashes. It is an extremely sensitive issue and must be addressed carefully,” he said.