East versus north: Bengaluru isn’t same for foreign students

African national students staging a demonstration. Photo: Sudhakara Jain  

Cyrille N’gbesso, a student from Ivory Coast, had his first brush with India at Bhyrathi Cross, a peri-urban village in northeast Bengaluru, when he came to the city two years ago. But learning it the street smart way, he soon relocated to Banaswadi, an upper middle-class locality in east Bengaluru.

“I couldn’t manage with English at Byrathi as most people only knew the local language. I had a really tough time with the locals there. On recommendation of some students, I shifted to Banaswadi. Here, even shopkeepers know English and I have never faced any discrimination or frictions with the local community,” he told The Hindu.

Most students from foreign countries and other parts of India such as the northeast living in Bhyrathi Bande, Kothanur, Soladevanahalli, Hesaraghatta and Bagalagunte in north and north-eastern parts of the city, felt there was constant friction with the local communities, while those living in east Bengaluru localities feel there is peaceful coexistence.

A.V. Madhusoodhan, founder of Just Practicals, a startup working to train African students in job skills, agrees with this, and said that most of the complaints they heard came from north Bengaluru.

So is this driven by demographics of change in the north and north-eastern areas when compared to other parts?

Most of the new colleges such as the Acharya Institute that has been attracting a large number of foreign national students have come up in the peri-urban villages on the outskirts of north Bengaluru, mostly in the last one decade. Most of these have been traditional agricultural villages with no non-Kannada, non-local population and has had their first encounter with migrants, predominantly foreign students, in the last decade.

Their arrival has fuelled the local economy, pushed up rentals, but there is a huge cultural and lifestyle gap. They are also easily identified as the “other” and the “insider versus outsider” discord is accentuated by language and other social barriers.

“These are villagers to whom Bengaluru was a city they looked up to and feared it would corrupt their children, a decade-and-a-half ago. Now, there are students from at least 20 countries living here. The colleges should also own up the responsibility to ease the students into the community,” said a senior police officer.

In most small skirmishes, involvement of local politicians or lumpen elements accentuates the problem. The local police too has been inactive in addressing the issue and acting sternly against those guilty, resulting in a fear perception among students that they are vulnerable targets. “If they stood and watched the case of the Tanzanian student, then how can we trust them to protect us the next time” asked a student.

Officials agree that the police force needs to make a huge effort to restore faith, not just among students from African or other foreign countries, but also among those from north-eastern States in India and even some from north India States who feel “vulnerable”.

Explaining why east Bengaluru is safer for migrants, V.S. D’Souza, retired police officer from east Bengaluru, said history had been on the side of this part of the city as it was a British cantonment. “During our youth, even in the late 1960s, we were exposed to Iranians, Italians, African nationals and we had friends from all these nationalities. East Bengaluru is definitely more exposed to foreign nationals and more English than other parts of the city, which makes it more cosmopolitan and conducive for migrants even today,” he said.

In this context, efforts like constant interaction with the police and local communities could catalyse the process in north and north-eastern parts of the city, according to officials.


City has around 6,000 students from African nations


The geography of the students is decided by the colleges they study in

North and Northeast Bengaluru colleges

Indian Academy – Hennur Cross

SSR College - Byrathi

Karnataka College – Byrathi

Reva University – Yelahanka

Acharya Institute of Technology – Soladevanahalli

East Bengaluru colleges

CMR Institute – Banaswadi

Christ University – Hosur Road

St. Joseph’s College – Central Bengaluru

Garden City College – K.R. Puram

South East Asian Academy – K.R. Puram

Cambridge College – K.R. Puram

Indo Asian Academy – Horamavu

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 4:38:50 AM |

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