Kyrgyzstan Violence: From why it happened, to an update on the students, and India’s response — All you need to know

Kyrgyzstan Violence: Violent mobs targeted hostels housing international students after Kyrgyz locals accused officials of 'lenient treatment' towards foreign students involved in a fight. The Indian Embassy has advised students to stay indoors and contact them if needed.

Livemint, Written By Jocelyn Fernandes
First Published19 May 2024
Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladesh students were attacked in Kyrgyzstan's capital city.
Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladesh students were attacked in Kyrgyzstan’s capital city.(X)

Kyrgyzstan Violence: Foreign students, including those from India and Pakistan, are facing threats from locals amid ongoing mob violence against international students in Bishkek, in Kyrgyzstan.

India, on May 18, advised its students in Bishkek to stay indoors following reports of mob violence targeting international students, especially those from South Asia. The Indian embassy in Kyrgyzstan reported that the situation is currently "calm".

The Indian mission confirmed it is in contact with the Indian students and advised them to remain indoors. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also advised students to keep in regular touch with the embassy.

Also Read | Violence in Kyrgyzstan's Bishkek: Amid attacks, India and Pakistan issue advisory to students - 10 crucial updates

Here is all you need to know

  • What Led to the Violence? Tensions heightened after videos of a fight between Kyrgyz students and foreign students, mainly Pakistanis and Egyptians, on May 13 went viral on social media, NDTV reported, citing local media. The brawl was perceived by locals as a clear breach of the hospitality extended to the foreign students.

Thus, several Kyrgyz locals took to the streets on May 17 night, accusing officials of showing 'lenient treatment' towards the foreigners involved in the fight. However, the police stated that they had detained three students as soon as they were informed of the May 13 incident.

The violent mobs began targeting medical university hostels housing international students from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

  • India's Response: Addressing the issue on the social media site X (formerly known as Twitter), EAM Jaishankar wrote: "Monitoring the welfare of Indian students in Bishkek. The situation is reportedly calm now. Strongly advise students to stay in regular touch with the Embassy."

The Indian Embassy also reassured that it is aware of the situation, stating on X: “We are in touch with our students. The situation is presently calm, but students are advised to stay indoors for the moment and get in touch with the Embassy in case of any issue. Our 24×7 contact number is 0555710041.”

  • What Kyrgyzstan Said: The Kyrgyz foreign ministry also issued a statement on May 18 saying that law enforcement took "prompt measures" to detain locals and foreigners involved in the incident, adding that the situation is "under control" and "safety of citizens and public order were ensured".

"There are no seriously injured people among the participants of the incident. About 15 citizens applied to medical institutions for medical check-ups. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic has not received any reports on the injured foreign citizens. At the same time, the Ministry urges representatives of the mass media and foreign diplomatic missions not to disseminate unreliable and unverified information," the statement added.

The Kyrgyz health ministry reported that four Pakistanis received first aid and were discharged, while one remains under treatment for injury, according to Reuters.

  • Kyrgyz Police Deployment: ANI cited a local paper, The Times of Central Asia, to report that police in riot gear were deployed in parts of Bishkek overnight due to large crowds gathering in response to an alleged fight between locals and foreigners. Kyrgyz police reportedly mobilised forces on Friday, May 17, to quell the violence following a fight between some foreigners and locals in Bishkek on May 13.
  • Indian Student Population in Kyrgyzstan: There are an estimated 15,000 Indian students in Kyrgyzstan, though it is unclear how many are currently in Bishkek, as per PTI. The Kyrgyz foreign ministry reiterated that untrue information is being spread, particularly through media and social networks in Pakistan, and urged reliance on official and confirmed information from competent authorities.
  • Why Are Indian Students in Kyrgyzstan? Kyrgyzstan, along with Russia, Ukraine, and Bangladesh, is a popular destination for Indian students pursuing an MBBS degree, as per an NDTV report. It added that the affordability and quality of medical education at Kyrgyzstan universities attract many Indian medical aspirants and other international students.

Degrees from colleges in Kyrgyzstan are internationally recognised, including by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

A recent advisory issued by the Centre described Kyrgyzstan as safe, secure, and friendly, particularly towards Indian nationals, and highlighted considerable goodwill for the country.

  • Pakistan's Response: Hasan Zaigham, Pakistan's Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, advised all Pakistani students in Bishkek to stay indoors until the situation returns to normal. He assured that the embassy is liaising with local law enforcement to ensure the students' safety.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has directed Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar and Federal Minister Amir Muqam to visit Bishkek, to provide assistance and support to Pakistani students stranded in Kyrgyzstan due to recent unrest, ANI reported citing The Express Tribune. According to the Pakistani PMO, Dar and Muqam will travel on a special plane today, May 19.

Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson, Mumtaz Baloch, said a demarche has been issued to Kyrgyzstan under Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar's instructions.

  • Update on Pakistani Students: Ambassador Zaigham confirmed that there were no deaths among Pakistani students due to the violence. Meanwhile, a special flight carrying 180 Pakistani students landed at Lahore's Allama Iqbal International Airport on May 18, ANI reported.

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