AFRICANGLOBE – Shops belonging to Asians were targeted in a protest in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo over the arrest of Congolese students in India.
One Indian national was reportedly injured in the riots and is being treated in hospital.
The demonstrators were angered by the arrest on Saturday of 21 Congolese students in Jalandhar, a city in northern India.
There are differing accounts of why they were arrested and there have been allegations of police mistreatment.
But the Indian ambassador to DR Congo, Ram Manohar, told reporters that the police had not assaulted the students, but there had been an exchange of violence during the arrests.
He said that on Wednesday afternoon 17 of the 21 Congolese students had been released. This has yet to be confirmed.
DR Congo’s deputy foreign affairs minister had requested that the students be immediately freed.
The Congolese authorities also demanded that the students be given a medical examination following the allegations of abuse.
Earlier, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported that one of the detainees had attempted to take their own life.
Most of the students who were detained came from Kinshasa to study commerce or engineering within the last two years at the Lovely Professional University in Punjab state.
According to the police, the group was arrested after a fight broke out between several Congolese students and an Indian at a bus stop in Jalandhar on Saturday afternoon.
Jalandhar deputy police commissioner Jaspreet Singh claimed that the Congolese then “stole the bag of the victim”.
“When we arrived there we saw a crowd of Congolese had come – we tried to calm the situation but the Congolese were very aggressive. They insulted and attacked us,” he said.
But the Congolese students say the trouble began after one of the Congolese undergraduates waiting for a bus was almost run over by a car.
He was then beaten with a cricket bat in what appeared to be a racist attack, they say.
A group of his friends came to his aid, alerted by a passing Congolese student.
Prompted by such reports, Indian and Pakistani-owned shops came under attack in central Kinshasa on Wednesday morning and remained shut all day, according to reports from the Congolese capital.
“I was in the supermarket and some Congolese told me, ‘If you leave we will cut your throat.’ I stayed hidden until my boss came to find me and I could flee in the car,” an Indian employee told reporters.
“When in the car they were shouting, ‘Catch him, catch him, catch him,'” he said.
At least one Indian national had been injured in the riots and had gone to hospital to be treated for a cracked skull, he said.
After an hour police intervened to stop the riot, our Kinshasa correspondent says.
Manohar said the “isolated incident” in Jalandhar should not affect the long-standing friendly relations that exist between India and DR Congo.
“It should not be construed as a target against a particular community or particular country,” the Indian ambassador said.
“We are the largest contributor of troops to Monusco [the UN peace force in DR Congo] and we welcome each year between 6,000 and 8,000 Congolese students to India,” he said.