The alleged thrashing of two African students in their hostel at the Roorkee Institute of Technology, with the director among the accused, has triggered a protest at the campus gates and highlighted the plight of foreign students stranded by the lockdown.
Francis Korangaya of Ghana, one of the attacked students, says the private institute in Haridwar district, Uttarakhand, had been pressuring its six African students to vacate the hostel since the lockdown began on March 25.
He has told police that 11 people — including senior institute officials, staff and security guards — attacked him and Nigerian student Ibrahim in their hostel room on Wednesday evening.
A badly injured Ibrahim is under treatment at a local hospital.
On Thursday, the police arrested eight people, including the private institute’s director Parag Jain, assistant administrator Sri Kant and several security guards.
The institute chairman and vice-chairman have been booked on charges of harassing the African students, officers said.
Francis said the six Africans were the only students still living at their campus hostel, unable to leave because their countries had not arranged to fly their nationals back from India.
“Since we had no alternative arrangement, we kept requesting the college management to let us stay,” he told reporters, adding that he and Ib-rahim acted as spokespersons for the other African students.
He said that with the hostel mess closed, the students had to step out of the campus to buy food.
At other times, the friends they had made in Roorkee town delivered food from their homes, which they collected at the institute gate.
“We have registered a case against institute chairman S.K. Gupta, vice-chairman Sanjay Agrawal and others and arrested eight people,” Sanjeev Thapaliyal, officer-in-charge of the local police station, said.
“We are trying to arrest the other accused. District administrative officers have informed the embassies about the incident.”
Thapaliyal said the African students were enrolled in the first year of the Master of Business Administration programme.
An institute spokesperson has been quoted as saying the students were breaching the lockdown protocol by frequently stepping out of the campus.
He said the students did so without exit passes and had attacked the guards, without providing details.
But Francis said that passes were needed only if a hostel boarder returned after 10pm.
Some 20-odd members of Congress student arm NSUI sat at the institute gate on Friday and demanded the Uttarakhand government order a probe.
“The way senior staff of the institute physically assaulted two foreign students is proof of the way some people want to run it,” Sachin Chaudhary, president of the NSUI’s Haridwar unit, said.
“The students couldn’t leave the hostel because they could not make arrangements to return home. It was the institute’s responsibility to take good care of them. Instead, the management started harassing them.”
He added that the institute employed “agents in Delhi who promise the moon to foreign students and lure them to take admission here”.
Most foreign students in India have been unable to leave and many are facing pressure from their campus authorities to vacate their rooms.