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Manipuri student attacked in Bangalore, told ‘speak in Kannada, this is not China’

Bangalore: In a suspected hate crime, a Manipuri student leader was attacked with rocks late Tuesday by a gang of men who demanded he “speak in Kannada”.

Manipuri student attacked in Bangalore, told ‘speak in Kannada, this is not China’

Michael Haokip, president of a Manipuri students' association, after being attacked on Tuesday night, in what seems like a hate crime. (Sudipto Mondal/HT Photo)
Michael Haokip, president of a Manipuri students’ association, after being attacked on Tuesday night, in what seems like a hate crime. (Sudipto Mondal/HT Photo)

The attack took place past midnight in Kothanur, a part of the city which has a high density of outstation students, particularly from the northeast states and Africa. There have been similar attacks in the area in the past.

The victim of the latest attack — T Michael Lamjathang Haokip, president of the Thadou (Manipuri tribe) Students’ Association, Bangalore — sustained injuries to his head and back. The 26-year-old is out of danger.

Two other members of the students’ association, Ngamkholen Haokip, 28, and Rocky Kipgen, 25, who were with Michael when he was attacked escaped with minor injuries.

Incidentally, Ngamkholen had faced a similar attack in another part of the city in September. The police are yet to make any arrests in that case.

“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 HT at the Kothanur police station on Wednesday night.

In his complaint, Michael alleged that people who were attracted by the commotion immediately took the side of the attackers.

Michael Lamjathang Haokip at Kothanur police station (Sudipto Mondal/HT Photo)

Describing the terrifying mob attack, he said, “A friend from my community, Letmang Haokip, 35, was passing by on his motorbike at the same time. I jumped onto the bike and we started racing towards the police station. But mob 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.”

Letmang, who could not leave his motorbike behind and escape, said, “I was surrounded by the gang when Michael ran away. They snatched my valuables and my bike’s documents. They would have probably killed me but Michael returned with the police.”

Obed Haokip, 46, one of Michael’s friends, who arrived with the police patrol, claimed people close to a local politician helped some of the attackers escape. “This man pretended he was helping us but he actually allowed some of the attackers to escape.”

Additional commissioner of police Alok Kumar said, “Three persons have been arrested and investigations are on to ascertain if this was a hate crime.”

Michael said trouble started when they were at a roadside eatery. “Suddenly, three men came and started giving us orders in Kannada. All we could understand (through their gestures) is that they wanted us to move. But they started asking us all sorts of things and when we could not answer, they started raising the Kannada issue.”

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