A Manipuri woman alleged on Saturday that an immigration official at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport hurled racist remarks at her when she was on her way to Seoul for a conference.
Monika Khangembam wrote on her Facebook wall that when she went to the immigration desk at IGI around 9pm on Saturday, an official looked at her passport and said: “Indian toh nahi lagti ho (you don’t look Indian).”
He then allegedly smirked at her and asked her how many states comprised the country, in an apparent bid to “know her Indianness”. She alleged that a female official at the adjacent counter was giggling while the male officer paid no heed to her saying that she was getting late for the flight.
When Khangembam told him she hailed from Manipur, he allegedly asked her to name the states Manipur shared its border with. “I said I was really getting late and he goes like, “aircraft aapko chodke kahi nahi jaa rahi. Aaram se jawab do” (the aircraft isn’t leaving without you. You can answer at ease.)
Khangembam was en-route to Seoul for a global women’s conference.
A home ministry spokesperson said if any such complaint is made it will be looked into.
Khangembam, who is in Seoul, wrote another Facebook post on Sunday, saying she had received support from many people but some others said the official was not being racist.
“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 the trip’ 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 (sic),” she said.
She said she hadn’t raised the issue at the time as she was getting late for her flight. “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... 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) (sic),” she wrote, referring to racist attacks on those from the northeast in Delhi.
Supporting Khangembam, several Twitter users have urged external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to step in and take action against the immigration officer.
In December, a group of men in Gurgaon brutally assaulted a 29-year-old man from Manipur. Earlier that year, 19-year-old Nido Taniam succumbed to ‘serious injuries’ after being brutally beaten in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar locality.
The attacks have triggered waves of protests by northeastern people, who say they are discriminated against, are called various names and routinely face violence, despite numbering around 200,000 in the city alone.