The recent arrest of 21 Congolese students by police in Jalandhar, a city in northwestern India, has angered the black African community in the state of Punjab. Local Congolese say there is an intolerably racist atmosphere in the state.
The Congolese students were arrested on Saturday at a bus stop in Jalandhar, near the university named “Lovely Professional” where they are enrolled.
The reasons for their detention remain unclear. According to a representative from the Jalandhar police, the authorities were investigating luggage theft
that occurred the day before at the same bus stop and were verifying the identity of the Congolese nationals. According to the police, the students allegedly refused to obey, hit them, and broke the camera of a journalist present on-scene. The Indian media are reporting this version of the story.
In a message
sent to the Congolese embassy in New Delhi, the Congolese Community of India (CCI) explained that a group of Indians had directed racist slurs and threats at one of the Congolese students. The student called his friends and a fight broke out. The police questioned the Indians and Congolese involved in the fight; however, following the questioning, none of the Indians were detained, while the Congolese were kept in detention.
On Sunday, June 16, the Congolese nationals were transferred from the police station to the court of Jalandhar. Video posted on YouTube.
The students appeared before the court immediately and were placed in pre-trial detention for 14 days (the maximum length of detention allowed by law) after which time they will be judged. According to the CCI, who says it visited the detainees, “the detention conditions [of the Congolese students] are inhuman, and [the detainees] claim to have been subject to all kinds of insults and torture”.
When contacted by FRANCE 24, the secretary of the Embassy of Congo in India, Jean Baptiste Kasongo, said he “firmly condemns the events that took place” and that he found it suprising that only the Congolese are being judged. He called for “equitable justice” and expressed his displeasure that, in the eyes of the police, “the criminals could only be the Congolese”. FRANCE 24 also reached out to the Indian Interior Ministry, but to date none of its representatives has agreed to answer our questions. We will publish any answers as they come in.
The arrested Congolese were transferred to the court of Jalandhar on Sunday, June 16. Video uploaded to Facebook.