Justice delayed for Punjab beating victim
Burundi national Yannick Nihangaza was brutally beaten in April by allegedly drunk youngsters, and left for dead in Jalandhar, a city in Punjab. Nearly three months later, the 23-year-old Nihangaza lies in a vegetative state at a hospital.
Until today, he has had to beg. Local media reports say Nihangaza’s father has written to Punjab’s chief minister and expressed his disappointment at the government having done little to set things right.
After the Burundi youth’s story received some attention in the local media, the state government on Friday said it will help the family and has instructed the police to probe the incident. It is unknown why it took the government nearly three months to ask for help.
This is in contrast to Australia, where about two years ago, Indian student Shravan Kumar was a victim of what appeared to be a racially motivated attack. Australia granted him permanent residency status, entitling him to various benefits as a result.
In a separate case where an Australian teenager fatally stabbed Nitin Garg, an Indian student, the Victoria state’s Supreme Court sentenced the teenager to 13 years in jail.
When Anuj Bidve was murdered in the United Kingdom and his family complained about delays in the processing of the case, the police sent two senior officers all the way to India to brief the relatives.
Until last week, Punjab did not take much action to address Nihangaza’s case, and the public has paid little attention. It was only on Sunday that the son of a senior police officer was taken into police custody. It is unlikely that the reaction would be so blase were this to happen to an Indian man in the United States or in Burundi.
There is no proof that this was a racially motivated attack, and it is not always possible for the police to prevent such incidents, but it is in the interest of good international relations — not to mention the spirit of compassion for one’s guests — to take an interest.
It would be all the more odd for India to ignore this case considering how touchy people become when they hear about a person being attacked for being Indian, or simply for being treated with suspicion because of skin colour or religion.
If Nihangaza’s case should come to a bitter end, it will be harder for India to claim that its honour has been besmirched the next time something like this happens on foreign shores.