In a suspected case of hate crime, Bengaluru police arrested three men on Wednesday who reportedly assaulted a Manipuri student with rocks for not speaking the local language.
T Michael Lamjathang Haokip was attacked a little after midnight in a part of the city mostly inhabited by migrants, particularly students from the northeast states and Africa. The 26-year-old received wounds to his head and back but doctors said he was out of danger.
People from India’s seven northeast states are frequently singled out for abuse in other parts of the country because they look different and often dress different, say social scientists. More than 30,000 people from the Northeast fled Bengaluru in August 2012 after a handful of such attacks sparked rumours of a larger conspiracy.
“They kept asking me to speak in Kannada. They said, ‘If you outsiders know how to eat food that is produced in Karnataka, you must also know to speak Kannada. This is India not China.’ I tried to reason with them but they were hysterical,” a profusely bleeding Michael told Hindustan Times at the Kothanur police station.
Two of Michael’s friends – Ngamkholen Haokip, 28, and Rocky Kipgen, 25 – who were with him when he was assaulted on Wednesday escaped with minor wounds.
“A friend from my community, Letmang Haokip, 35, was passing by on his motorcycle. I jumped onto the bike and we started racing towards the police station. But the people followed us on their bikes and one of them crashed into us. We fell down and I started running for my life towards the police station. Just then a police patrol car arrived and the mob scattered,” he said.
Letmang, who could not leave his motorcycle behind and escape, said the mob snatched valuables and the bike’s documents from him. “They would have probably killed me but Michael returned with the police.”
Obed Haokip, 46, one of Michael’s friends who arrived with a police patrol team, said some associates of a local politician helped a few of the attackers escape.
“Three persons have been arrested and investigations are on to ascertain if this was a hate crime,” said additional commissioner of police Alok Kumar.
Boxer MC Mary Kom, who hails from Manipur and was in Bengaluru for an event, also condemned the incident.
“There should be unity and peace in our country, so that such incidents don’t repeat again,” the Olympic medallist said.