Five Nigerian students in Greater Noida, India were accused of cannibalism after a teenager went missing on Friday, March 24th.
Manish Khari, a 19-year-old Class 12 student went for a walk at about 7pm, after an early dinner on Friday but didn’t come home. His relatives and neighbours set out to look for him and were later told by someone who claimed that the teenager had last been seen with five Nigerian students who lived two doors away (The police are yet to verify this claim).
The CCTV cameras in the area were of no help because they were not working.
The crowd barged into the house but Khari wasn’t there. The fact that the teenager had supposedly been seen with the five Nigerians, set off a horrifying rumour: that the Nigerians had eaten up the young man.
When the crowd entered the home of the Nigerians, only two of the five occupants were present. Failing to find Khari there, the crowd concluded that the Nigerians had killed and cannibalised the teenager.
The police were eventually called. They took the two Nigerian men into protective custody, fearing that the mob would harm them. All the while, the mob kept insisting that they should be allowed to interrogate the Nigerian students.
Amidst the drama, Khari returned to the enclave on Saturday morning, but he seemed out of sorts. The fact that he returned home didn’t left the Nigerians off the hook though.
“He looked shocked,” said one of Khari’s neighbourhood friends who did not wish to be identified. “There were injuries on his foot and he barely could recognise anyone.”
Around an hour after Khari had been escorted home, his condition deteriorated. He complained of heart palpitations and started to vomit. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, and then referred to another, where he died.
Khari died on Saturday, March 25th, seemingly of a drug overdose, leading his family to insist that the police file murder charges against the Nigerian students.
After Khari was declared dead, the police – who were unable to speak to the young man after his return – registered a First Information Report against the Nigerian occupants of the neigbouring house on the basis of a complaint by Khari’s parents. The students identified as Usman Abdul Qadir, Mohammad Amir, Saeed Kabir, Abdul Usman, Saeed Abu Waqar, were booked under charges of murder and causing hurt by means of any poisonous substance with the intent to commit an offence.
On Sunday, scores of African students participated in a demonstration at Kasna police station in Greater Noida to protest the murder charges.
“How can someone come up with such inhuman allegations?” asked Najib Hamisu Umar, 29, a Nigerian who is pursuing a PhD in India. “I have lived in Russia and Germany but never been through such trauma. The day I leave India, I shall never come back.”
Sujata Singh, Superintendent of Police (Greater Noida-Rural), said that the five Nigerians, who study at the Noida International University, had been interrogated and booked for murder. But despite the severity of the charges, the students were allowed to go on Sunday.
“They had to be released as there is no evidence against them,” Singh said.
On Sunday, security had been beefed up at the NSG Black Cat Enclave. Visitors were being asked to meet the enclave management in order to enter. The Kharis had left for their village to conduct their son’s last rites. The house the Nigerian students rented was also vacant.
A group of locals explained how they had come to the conclusion that the Nigerian students were cannibals. They said that a friend of one of the students had visited the enclave on Friday, and that they recovered a hacksaw blade from the visitor’s car.
The locals also claimed that the police had seized a variety of drugs from the five students. However, the police have dismissed both allegations.
“We have recovered no such thing from the possession of the suspects,” said Sujata Singh. “We cannot comment much on the case at this stage as the final postmortem report is yet to arrive.”
Several locals also claimed to have spoken to Khari after he returned on Saturday. They claimed that Khari had been kidnapped by a dark-skinned person who forced him to inhale a substance that made him pass out. When he woke, they said, he found himself lying in the green belt close to the Yamuna Expressway.
Samuel Abiye Jack, the president of the Association of African Students in India said that his group’s primary demand was that the police conduct a fair investigation. It also wanted the police to lodge a case against local residents who made the allegations against the Nigerian students
The students have since been moved to an undisclosed location for their safety.
The bizarre episode played out in a Greater Noida township, about 40 km from Delhi. The NSG Black Cat Enclave, where Manish Khari lived with his parents in a rented house, is a colony of independent houses that are owned by members of the special forces. Khari’s father, Kripal Khari, is a property dealer. About 300 families live in the enclave.