Through a Facebbook post on 9th July, 9:52 pm, Monika Khangembam, a corporate communications professional from Imphal, Manipur, alleged that she faced racial harassment at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport immigration desk around 9:00 pm. An immigration official humiliatingly jibed at her, “Indian toh nahi lagti ho” (you don’t look Indian) during her immigration clearance on her way to Seoul, South Korea to represent India in a global women’s conference. Needless to say, she was carrying her passport at that time and such questions were uncalled for.
While Monika tried to maintain her clam despite irritation, the official further prodded her to prove her Indianness by asking questions like the number of states in India and the names of the states bordering Manipur. On insisting that she was getting late for the flight, the official stated, aircraft aapko chodke kahi nahi jaa rahi. Aaram se jawab do” (the aircraft isn’t leaving without you. You can answer at ease). According to her FB comment, all the while a female official at the adjacent counter was “giggling”.
You can read the original post here:
Khangembam’s post received comments about similar racial harassment cases faced by other people from the Seven Sister States in the past. Nanda Kirati Dewan wrote, “I have faced it several times due to Mongolian face orientation. Together we should fight against such attempt to question our Indianness.”
To “prove” that they are Indians indeed is nothing new to people from the north eastern states who migrate to other parts of the country for studies or work. As an extreme example, we can recall the incident in January 2014 when shopkeepers in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar market beat a teenage student from Arunachal Pradesh, Nido Taniam, after a heated argument took place when the men made fun of his hairstyle. People from all over the country took to the roads in protest.
According to an estimate published by The Indian Express
“…more than 11 lakh north-east people live in Delhi for work or studies purpose. Around 36 Delhi hospitals had recently agreed upon providing a subsidized treatment to them as part of a reach-out program. The Delhi Police, too, has a special cell and a helpline number – 1093 – that looks at complaints of racism and attacks.”
The recent incident which Khangembam allegedly faced, points to the failure of the above mechanism. Mere paper work or issuing helpline numbers is not going to help unless there is a change in the attitude of the people.
Monika’s status-update rightly invited the ire of concerned social media users. It went viral on social media. At the time of writing this article, it has had 952 shares and 2.6 k likes. Several social media users tweeted to ministers like Sushma Swaraj and Kiren Rijiju to promptly act against the concerned immigration officer.
In subsequent posts on Facebook, Monika added that she would not mind if questions that were relevant to her trip were asked – questions regarding her conference, or work place, funding of the trip would not irritate her. Instead humiliating and sarcastic questions were asked. “This is not related to the trip nor I am a kid (sic),” she said.”
In response to Twitter messages addressed to her, Sushma Swaraj tweeted her apology to Monika on July 10th. She mentioned that while the Immigration Department does not come under her ministry, she would take up the matter with Home Minister Rajnath Singh so that a sensitization drive is launched at the airport.
Monika’s Facebook post from Seoul on July 10th states that she would pursue the issue further by filing a complaint after she is back in 15 days. As a proof, she is hoping to use the footing from the CCTV cameras installed at the airport. She also plans to write to the Ministry of External Affairs regarding the incident.
Meanwhile, DCP IGI airport DK Gupta has informed the media, “We have not received any complaint, if we get any such complaint, we will take action as per the law.” Similarly, a top official of the Bureau of Immigration has said that an inquiry will be set up if the passenger lodges a formal complaint.
The Logical Indian community is shocked at the ineptitude and condescending attitude of the immigration official. It is just another example of racism among many faced by citizens of our own country. We urge our community members to be sensitive towards the sentiments of our fellow Indians. We are Indians first, and belong to different states later. Why do we have to wait to cross the national border to be identified as united Indians while within India we still have to introduce ourselves according to our place of birth? While we appreciate the apology and promise for action by our External Affairs Minister, we send out a reminder to our friends that racism cannot be abolished from India unless we make efforts at individual level, wherever we see it raising its ugly head. We request everyone to try to nip it in the bud. After all, prevention is better than cure.