Racially harassed Manipuri woman demands action against IGI immigration desk

New Delhi: Manipuri woman Monika Khangembam, who was allegedly subjected to racial treatment at Indira Gandhi International Airport’s immigration desk, has asked the authorities to take action and has been plans to write to the Ministry of External Affairs about the incident.

“I would like the authorities to take necessary action. I am planning to write to the Ministry of External Affairs about this,” said Khangembam.

Khangembam’s sister Mensy too said the immigration officer asking about her nationality was “unfortunate”. “It’s unfortunate that my sister who was carrying an Indian passport was asked by the immigration officer about her nationality that too very sarcastically, which is totally not related to her trip. Such type of treatment is unacceptable, and the authorities concerned must look into the matter very seriously so that such incidents don not occur in future.”

In a Facebook post on July 9, Monika Khangembam alleged that she was subjected to harassment by a “racist” immigration desk.

“The bloody racist immigration desk at it again! Looks at my passport and says, ‘Indian toh nahi lagti ho’. I get that all the time so don’t react much to it but then he goes on, ‘Pakka Indian ho?’ with a smirk. I still don’t react. What really got me was when he said, “See… You yourself need to know your Indianess. How many states are there in India?’ The lady at the next counter is giggling.

“I tell him I am really running late. He goes, ‘nahi nahi bolo bolo’. I helplessly answer him as he is not proceeding with the process. And then he continues, ‘kaha se ho;’ I said Manipur and he is like, ‘so tell me how many states Manipur shares borders with. Name them. I totally lose it and I look away and roll my eyes and don’t answer. And he still insists that I answer.

“This bloody moron has all the time to ask all this. I said I was really getting late and he goes like, ‘aircraft aapko chodke kahi nahi jaa rahi. Aaram se jawab do’. What a bully and never felt so humiliated. It was like it was his mission to make me realise my ‘Indianness’ and he thought he was being funny. I was running late and felt I was giving in to the bully. Spoiled my night.

Is there a way to complain against these bullies?”

However, it was not all, in another Facebook post on Sunday evening, Monika claimed of drawing flak from several quarters for terming it a “racist” treatment. “Last night, I was just venting out my frustration on FB about what happened last night (on Friday) at IGI Airport and I had no idea it will get viral and some news agencies will carry the news.

“A lot of you came out to support me and thank you for that. But I also saw some comments in other pages saying, ‘stupid woman, that’s not racism. Immigration people ask all sorts of questions… don’t play victim card bla bla’ (liberal Manipuris please don’t give lectures on reverse racism now. Some other time).”

Clarifying her stand, Monika said, “Let me get it straight. I wouldn’t have minded if he asked me TRIP RELATED QUESTIONS like what’s the conference about, how long are you there, where do you work currently, who is funding, what’s the purpose etc. It’s even perfectly fine to ask where I am from but it’s not fine bossing around asking with that sarcastic smile ‘HOW MANY STATES ARE THERE IN INDIA?’ ‘NAME THE STATES BORDERING MANIPUR?’ This is NOT RELATED TO THE TRIP nor I am a kid. And yes I regret not raising the issue then and there as there wasn’t much time left for my departure and honestly I was worried he might not stamp my visa. (sic)”

“I am right now in Seoul for my programme and I have a hectic schedule ahead so might not be able to do anything from here. I can only do anything after I am back after 15 days. I couldn’t get the name of the officer but a friend working at the IGI airport told me they can find out from CCTV footage.

“Me and a lot of people from North East have constantly faced subtle racist jibes whether in the form of a sarcastic remark, smile, or attitude. Sometimes you cannot define it but you just feel it so you never express. Maybe this time it was something tangible so I could express it. Sadly you have to be killed to prove there is racism. (Richard Loitam, Nido Taniam)

“We constantly talk about auto walas and rickshaw walas harassing the NE people but what do you do when it’s someone who deals with people from all over the world from different backgrounds and ethnicity daily? If they cannot be sensitive then how do we expect others to be respectful?”

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has tendered apology in her Tweeter posts. “Monika Khangembam – I am sorry to know this. Immigration is not with me. I will speak to my senior colleague Shri @rajnathsingh ji to sensitise Immigration officials at the airport.” (ANI)