Captain Murugan’s post is a call from a furious young Indian from the northeastern part of the country to stop the mainland Indians from treating the northeasterners as “others” in their process of othering.
Recently, it was reported that a case had been slapped on one Omen Achom who has a Facebook (FB) account called Captain Murugan. I reasoned that the complaint or case was filed against him because his FB post must have bordered on some negative intent or the potential to create social disturbance and instigation various groups of people.
When inquired about it, I found out that it was about this 32-year-old hailing from Khonghampat Mayai Leikai, a research scholar in Film Studies at the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad, Telangana. Captain Murugan is his Facebook name and he recently posted a message on his FB wall regarding Olympic silver medalist S Mirabai Chanu that had been termed as ‘racist’ and objectionable by a local club.
I am not sure about the current legal status of the case and will diligently desist from reproducing the exact full text. However, I also assume that many have seen and read his post. Those who have read the entire post know that it surely did mention “Chineses girl from Manipur win Olympic Silver for India” and “Why did India hire this Chinese girl …. who are slut-shamed for wearing “tiny” clothes, who are often asked “what is your rate?…. Nation wants to know!!”
Since the a complaint had been filed, there were many who keep arguing that penalizing Captain Murugan is akin to not understanding what sarcasm is, a literary style used to criticize or use words that mean the opposite of what the speaker or writer intends. However, when I read the text of his post, I literally see no sarcasm or humour in it. I see only fury, a fistful of fury. This fury as opposed to repressed anger is experienced by most of us when we are treated as if we are foreigners in our own country, India. This young person, who represents Manipur’s educated youth in some sense, is representative of the entire youth who had frequently faced racism in other parts of India. He is in one way of expressing his rage in the “language of the adversary”. He is obliquely speaking about racism and imploring people from other parts of India to desist from throwing racial hate at individuals from the Northeast if they believed that Mirabai is an Indian. It is precisely this message that he wishes to communicate to his readers, rather than fostering hatred among various groups of people.
This case against a young scholar who was criticizing mainland Indian racism towards the people of the Northeast for our mongoloid look centres on the not so pleasant experience. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry know that every Kangleicha living in different cities across India is most of the time subjected to multiple forms of racial harassment. In a country we call our own, we have been treated like Chinese; this is a social reality. Our youth, especially those who work or study outside of the state has every reason to assume that the northeasterners in general and the Meeteis or Kangleichas in particular are not included in the mainstream Indian consciousness.
Why would our youngsters be enraged when they see a northeasterner, whom the mainland Indians have never claimed as their own before, being hailed as their own merely because she gives them an Olympic silver? Does it mean that we all have to give them Olympic medals to be acknowledged as Indians?
When the first wave of the covid pandemic arrived in India in 2020, people from the Northeast were labelled coronavirus since we do not have an elongated nose and wide eyes like other mainland Indians. They were subjected to various types of racial discrimination, as a result of which many people returned to Manipur, abandoning their jobs. A group of nurses, for instance, left Kolkata and returned to Manipur. Who can forget the 2012 murder of Richard Loitam, a 19-year-old student in Bangalore, which triggered massive student protests? I hope our nationalist friends recall how a Delhi man called a Manipur girl corona and spit paan on her not long ago.
Before charging the young scholar, our ultra-nationalism-fueled officers must ponder on how racial prejudice impacts our young boys and girls outside the state. and how our educated youth are reacting to the bigotry they have encountered. This discontent has already been expressed in sarcastic poems, essays, and other kinds of literature. And Captain Murugan is one of the many protestors or critics of the never-ending racial slurs we have faced in postcolonial mainland India as a result of our mongoloid appearance.
If one examines his language attentively, it is clear that the entire text is not intended to incite communal strife among the state’s residents. Rather, it is a call to stop Indians from seeing us as ‘others,’ and to challenge the validity of their concept of India, which has frequently seemed to exclude northeasterners as we look like Chinese. We were given the name corona less than a year ago since the virus originated in China and our phenotype is similar to that of Chinese people. Today, however, they suddenly accept a mongoloid face as Indian, with flowers adorning our girl. Almost every Indian on Facebook and Twitter considers Mirabai to be one of their own. If she had been an ordinary Manipur student living in a Delhi rent house, she would have been dubbed corona, chinky, or anything else with a racial connotation because she looks like a Chinese girl. This is what the young scholar attempted to communicate to the people of mainland India through his post.
Look at what he says in the end: “The country wants to know.” It’s clear that he wants mainland Indians to understand and accept that we, the people of the northeast, are not Chinese. When Captain Murugan wrote the words “nation wants to know,” he did not seem to exclude himself (MURUGAN himself) from the word ‘nation’ which he used as the subject of the sentence. Finally, we can fairly assume that his post is a call from a furious young Indian from the northeastern part of the country to stop the mainland Indians from treating the northeasterners as “others” in their process of othering.
(The writer regularly writes on socio-political issues in the Northeast. Views expressed are his own)