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African student’s death in police custody sparks protest in India

NEW DELHI, India: A Congolese student who was arrested in an alleged drug case, died in police custody in India’s southern city of Bengaluru, leading to outrage and scuffle with police in which at least six nationals of African countries were injured.

Joel Shindani Malu, 27, was detained by police on Sunday over charges of possessing a small cache of banned psychotropic ecstasy pills but died in custody early on Monday after suffering cardiac arrest, an officer said on Monday.

“He was diagnosed with Bradycardia and was administered with several rounds of CPR [Cardiopulmonary resuscitation] and other life-saving interventions but died due to a suspected cardiac arrest,” the officer said.

Following his death, several nationals of African countries staged a demonstration outside the police station and scuffled with policemen, which led to the assault of an officer.

The Hindu newspaper said they were members of the “Pan African Federation”, a group set up to protect the rights of African students and professionals in the city.

The demonstrators refuted the police claim that Malu had died of cardiac arrest and accused them of falsely detaining him before police used batons to push back the protesters and arrested a dozen demonstrators.

Police said they have opened an investigation into the death amid claims that the deceased student was “illegally” living in India after his passport and visa expired in 2017.

“Investigation into the death is being conducted as per NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) guidelines including inquest by a judicial magistrate. The investigation has been transferred to CID (Crime Investigation Department),” Bengaluru Police Commissioner Kamal Pant tweeted.

Earlier, on Sunday night, based on information, a team of police laid a trap to nab Joel, an alleged drug peddler, near Banjara Layout.

The police team kept watch and waited till the wee hours of Monday. Due to the sudden presence of police, Joel allegedly changed the location of trade to Babusapalya in Hennur police station limits.

Around 12.30 am, two foreign nationals were passing by on a scooter and police informants identified the pillion rider as Joel, following which the police in mufti apprehended him.

In the scuffle, as Joel was trying to flee, a few small plastic packets, containing white substance, fell to the ground. It was later found out to be 5 grams of MDMA, the police said. The other foreign national escaped.

After following due procedure, the police team brought Joel to the police station along with the seized substance and the bike for questioning.

Nationals of African countries often accuse Indian police of racial bias and harassment.

Many claim that they are routinely detained over fabricated charges of drug peddling and face daily discrimination.