Nigerian women thrash, bite detention centre officials and police officers in Karnataka

Six women from the West African country launched the attack after officials tried to shift gas stoves from their rooms to the common kitchen on Friday.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Jul 08, 2023 | 8:49 PM Updated Jul 08, 2023 | 8:49 PM

Representational image of an accused behind bars.

Six Nigerian women detainees were arrested for allegedly assaulting government officials, including police officers, at the Foreigners’ Detention Centre at Dibbur in Tumakuru, some 70 km from Bengaluru.

The women were detained for overstaying in the country after the expiry of their visas.

The incident occurred on Friday, 7 July, when Social Welfare Officer Marappa and the centre’s Warden and Supervisor Dinesh attempted to take away gas stoves the women were using in their rooms. A four-member all-women police team under Sub-Inspector Chandrakala was also with them.

“It was decided at a meeting at the detention centre nearly a week ago that gas stoves should not be used in individual rooms and should be kept in the common kitchen where they could cook,” a senior police officer in Tumakuru said.

“However, the foreigners refused to part with the stoves. They wanted the stoves in their rooms so that they could cook food of their choice,” he told South First.

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The trigger: A threat message

The officer said the issue started with one of the Nigerian nationals sending a WhatsApp message to the warden.

“She threatened to burn down the centre using cooking gas. She issued the threat reportedly for not arranging for the documents to facilitate their travel home and also for restricting the use of mobile phones,” he added.

The Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) had directed social welfare officers not to permit mobile phones at the detention centre. The officers were also instructed to ensure the detainees cooked in the common kitchen, and not in their rooms.

However, Marappa and Dinesh were reportedly lenient towards the women but advised them not to misuse their freedom. Before the gas stoves were arranged for the common kitchen, the detainees were ordering them from outside.

After the warden received the threat message, they decided to shift the stoves and gas cylinders from individual rooms to the kitchen. However, they were met with resistance, forcing the men to seek police assistance.

Related: Crime by foreigners in India 17 times more than those against them

The attack: Shock and awe

Around 5 pm on Friday, Marappa and Dinesh went to the centre along with the police team. It was then the Nigerians reportedly turned violent. They started assaulting Marappa, while one woman bit Dinesh on his arm. Sub-inspector Chandrakala and the team, too, were attacked when they intervened.

The police team had no answer for the sudden assault. “These women are well-built and each of them weighs more than 100 kg and they are very strong,” a woman police officer attached to the Tumakuru Town Police Station told South First.

“We are short-staffed and it becomes difficult to handle them when they turn aggressive. These women maintain abusive and vulgar behaviour towards the centre’s staff,” she added.

Chandrakala alerted her seniors about the incident. The police took a complaint from Marappa and registered a case against the women under sections 353 (assault and obstruction of public servants from discharging their duties), 323  and 324 (assault with bare hands and also with dangerous weapons) under the Indian Penal Code.

Two detention centres

“If they complain about less freedom at the detention centre, and create ruckus and assault staff and police, then they deserve to be jail,” a senior FRRO official told South First.

The arrested women will be lodged at the Shivamogga Central Prison or the Central Prison at Parappana Agrahara in Bengaluru.

The FRRO official said that two detention centres — one for men and the other for women — were set up on the outskirts of Bengaluru. While the centre for men at Sondekoppa in Nelamangala was established in October 2020, and one for women was opened recently, on 23 March.

The Sondekoppa centre can accommodate 50 men, while the Dibbur centre can accommodate 35. Currently, the Sondekoppa and Dibbur centres have 44 and 27 detainees, respectively.

The women are from Nigeria, Bangladesh, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and a few other countries.

“So far we have deported 140 men and 75 women who were overstaying in the state after the expiry of their visas,” the official said.

A Tumakuru police officer said they have not faced any problems from the men detained at Sondekoppa.