Two Deaths and a Lie


By Y. Jajo
Two recent incidents, one within the state and the other outside the state, have captivated the readers of the local dailies in Manipur, including myself.

  • The first is the rape and the brutal murder of Kumari Premila, a middle aged lady; and the second is the ‘mysterious’ death of Loitam Richard, a young student of architecture. The first incident occurred in a little known location somewhere in the remote corner of the state (Kakching, Manipur)
  • The second incident occurred in the technological capital city of the country – Bangalore.

[box type=quote size=full color=gray]Why is the inhumane, brutal and gruesome nature of her murder not advocated and given equal space like Loitam Richard’s? [/box]


Both are death and gone. May their souls rests in eternal peace.

What is interesting, and also of significance, to note is not the death per se of the two individuals mentioned above but the way the living respond to the deaths which reflect the deeply rooted structures of inequality in the society.

Shortly after the death of Loitam Richard, ‘Justice for Loitam Richard’, came into being.

The newspapers reported that 190,000 people registered immediately thereafter and the number was rising.

Candle lights vigils, sit-in protests, marches, condemnations etc. against the ‘mysterious’ death of Loitam Richard and for speedy delivery of justice were organized and continues to be organized across the country. Apparently, the nation in general, and the ‘northeasterners’ in particular, have suddenly woken up to brute injustice, or so it seems, through Loitam Richard’s ‘mysterious’ death.

Every day the front pages of all the leading local newspaper in Manipur carry big headlines and pictures of ‘Justice for Loitam Richard’. In it one see the faces of the young and the old, the foolish-looking and not-so-foolish looking, the enchanted and disenchanted, some seen herding them, all coming together demanding justice for Loitam Richard. Eulogy floods the limited editorial space of these dailies.

One of the intellectuals of the state wrote in a local daily:

‘He definitely must be a boy who had Manipur in his mind and heart so closely that even his death has played such a wonderful role to shake up the Indian psyche as never before’.

I have not had the opportunity to log in or browse the net for some time now. I am sure the traffic would be heavier there.

Forget dying, Loitam Richard would never have thought of becoming a martyr either as he is made out to be by the media. To conjecture and attribute so much after the person is no more reeks of something dubious; something more than just the ‘mysterious’ death. By the way, where is Kumari Premila all this while? Wasn’t her corpse charred beyond recognition – like an overdone barbecue – and head-less when it was found by the police?

Why is the inhumane, brutal and gruesome nature of her murder not advocated and given equal space like Loitam Richard’s?

If brutality or gruesome-ness is the yardstick for visibility, I guess Premila has an edge over Richard. But then, when this is not so, one is tempted to asked could it be the gender of the victim, the location of the death or is it a reflection of the wider socio-economic and cultural divide that marks the contemporary neo-liberal capitalist society largely driven by a patriarchal ideology – ‘Loitam’s Law’

(See Imphal Free Press, 6/5/2012, Editorial page, Manipur’s Time: Our Turn to Catch)?

That Loitam Richard died very young is sad. Moreover, the deliberate attempt to hush up the cause of the death by certain interested parties is condemnable. Justice must be delivered.  Yes, justice must be delivered to Loitam Richard not because of his gender, youth, or being a ‘northeasterner’; justice has to be given because injustice has been committed. A murder is murder. The on-going attempt by many individuals and groups to harp on the attention generated by the media over the death of Loitam Richard to the calculated silence on Kumari Premila’s murder or the gang-rape of Mrs. Janthailiu Kamei that happened in our own backyard by our own people is very disturbing? Isn’t it said that charity begins at home? Are we saying that justice must be equated to the capacity to generate a higher level of decibel? How is one death different from another death when death is the scale? The calculated silence and apathetic approach to the increasing crime against women in the state by the media and the concerned agencies of the state speaks volume about the cockeyed notion of justice permeating our society.

For instance, in the gang-rape of Mrs. Janthailiu Kamei, where the perpetrators of the crime includes members of the state machinery, the response of the media and the public is still less than venerable. Moreover, beneath the apparent coming together of some civil society based groups condemning the gang-rape and the call for awarding befitting punishment to the culprits, the divide based on elemental forces like gender, ethnicity and minority-majority seems to underline the fellowship. Interestingly, the way it is represented in the prints appears so shabby and incoherent that it generally escapes the eyes of the serious readers

(See Letter to the Editor, Hueiyen Lanpao, Dated 7/5/2012

“ On Gang rape of Jangthailu and brutal killing of Premila). Silly writing mistakes, avoidable errors, unconnected sentences etc. all go into giving an impression that either the campaigners are not as smart or the media just don’t care. Therefore, the public need not bother.

With due reverence to the departed souls and condolences to the bereaved families, I would like to strongly contend here that what is being played out in the media today is disturbing for the reason that inequality in the society is being perpetuated in the ways we respond to the issues happening around us.

Issues like ‘us’ versus ‘them’, men versus women, the ‘haves’ versus the ‘have-nots’ etc. continually gets reflected in our responses as we fail to note the embedded-ness of the existing inequalities and the hegemony of the state and the media dictated means of responses.

[box type=quote align=right]it is time the media savvy-based- canvassing steps aside for a more justifiable channel and forms of protest for ensuring justice for all transcending the gender, regional and economic divide[/box] One needs to be conscious of the means and ways of responding to the issues confronting us ensuring that our responses do not perpetuate the ills that plagued our society. One need to remember that media and the urge to be in the limelight has become strange bed-fellows in this time and age.


I guess it is time the media savvy-based- canvassing steps aside for a more justifiable channel and forms of protest for ensuring justice for all transcending the gender, regional and economic divide. The media needs to represent issues in a more democratic manner and shed its penchant for selective amnesia.


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