Alleged custodial death of Congo national in Bengaluru incites proteststext_fields
Bengaluru: The alleged custodial death of a Congolese national in Bengaluru sparked protests in front of the JC Nagar Police Station on Monday, August 3. The protests escalated and turned violent, leaving both protestors and police officers injured.
The deceased 27-year-old Joel Shindani Malu reportedly died from a cardiac arrest on Monday morning in a private hospital. He was detained by JC Nagar police for a drug-related offence on Sunday night, according to a report by The News Minute.
Deputy Commissioner of Police North Dharmender Kumar Meena told TNM that the arrest took place late Sunday night after a police patrol vehicle approached Joel and a plain-clothed police officer apprehended him, which caused him to flee.
"As Joel was trying to flee, a few small plastic packets containing white colour substance fell on the ground which was suspected to be narcotics. Another foreign national who was riding the bike escaped during the scuffle," said DCP Kumar Meena to TNM.
The DCP also added that the suspect allegedly confirmed that he planned to sell the white substance, which he noted was the drug MDMA.
Joel was residing in Bengaluru under a student visa. DCP Kumar Meena stated that both his visa and passports were expired, saying: "Available information suggests that his student visa expired on 20/07/2015 and passport expired on 13/12/2017. Investigation in UDR No 19/2021 under 176 CrPC is being conducted by PI JC Nagar as per guidelines laid down by Hon'ble National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)."
After his arrest, Joel reportedly complained of chest pain, upon which he was transferred to a private hospital. The transfer took place at 5:30 AM on Monday. The preliminary medical examination revealed that he was experiencing bradycardia, reported The Hindu.
Additional Commissioner of Police Soumendu Mukherjee told the media that doctors administered CPR and attempted to resuscitate him but ultimately failed. Joel was declared dead around 6:45 AM. "After four to five hours we got his documents. As per NHRC and SC guidelines, we are proceeding," said Mukherjee.
Following his death, an unnatural death case has been filed under Section 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Vice President of the Congolese Community in Bengaluru, Alikali, told ANI: "A student from our community was arrested around 1 am yesterday. This morning we got the news of his sudden death. He was fully healthy. People protested because they think police brutality was meted out to him."
He added: "According to JC Nagar Police, they didn't touch him and it was a cardiac attack. But many people including his girlfriend are suspecting police brutality. We want to get a clear picture and plan to file a complaint, it's not acceptable to see a healthy person die."
In response to the news of Joel's death, various African nationals currently residing in Bengaluru staged a protest outside the JC Nagar police station.
The protest turned violent, with eye-witnesses reporting that some protesters attempted to snatch away lathi from the officers, which led to a lathi charge that resulted in injuries on both sides. A video showing policemen using force against a protestor while he continuously shouts "I did nothing" while bleeding from his head has also surfaced.
Mukherjee told TNM that: "Some of his friends came and protested here. Despite the police showing restraint, the protestors started attacking the police. We had to resort to a mild lathi-charge. Our sub Inspector and constables also got injured and are receiving treatment."
The CID will probe further into the case. In response to the protest and claims of the excessive police force, Chief Minister of Karnataka Basavaraj Bommai defended the Bengaluru police's actions.
He brought attention to the nature of the initial arrest being a drug-related case, stating that: "The drug trafficking has been rampant, and those involved are thus being arrested. They had a violent attitude and therefore, police action was taken. When they needlessly attacked the police, our police took action in the right manner."
CM Bommai noted that there were a lot of African nationals in the city whose visas have expired and that the state plans on taking strict action against such offences. He also added that the state government has taken various actions in the past two years to curb drug trafficking in Karnataka.