Death Of Richard Loitam : Many Causes For Concern


By Sanjeev Ningombam
Bangalore the Garden City, Silicon City or the IT Capital has been a second home for thousands of students and professionals since decades. Because of its pleasant, appeasing and welcoming weather and of course the facilities available here many people choose Bangalore as their destination for education and career.

Bangalore can be considered as a cosmopolitan city which has accepted many races, religions and cultures to live together in their own ways. Many people seem to be less interested in bothering who their neighbors are, where they come from and which religion they belongs to. People are busy in their own life and have very less time to raise their eye brows to others. I was told that Bangaloreans are the most hospitable people you would ever find. And with my stay here of six long years I have experienced the same. I simply personally enjoyed living in Bangalore with what I have learned and experienced. I have never felt as an outsider in Bangalore.

Thousands of students from North Eastern states of India come to cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad etc. with the aim of pursuing higher studies. The question that lies here is – why do they choose these metro cities and not the North East?  The scenario of higher education in the North-East is not as promising as the rest of the country. There are only 14 Universities in the whole of North East and few Government colleges with limited courses.

Private colleges are very few. Manipur has only one Central University and one Government run Polytechnic institution to offer education for the 9 districts and a population of 27 lakhs. The few colleges affiliated to Manipur University are in pathetic state. It too remains closed for many days because of bandhs and strikes called by many regional groups. Law and order situation of the state along with long periods of unrest is also a matter of concern.

After sixty years of India’s independence Manipur still has no railway connectivity to the rest of India. Many parents believe that their children will have access to quality education and can study peacefully and are safe in the cities like Bangalore which has fewer disturbances. So this is the reason why students from Manipur came to big cities like Bangalore. It is not a matter of fashion or a prestige statement to send their children for studies in Bangalore. It is the need of quality education and opportunities that brings the students from North-East to cities like Bangalore. Lakhs or even crores of rupees are spent monthly putting up the total expenditure for students from the tiny state.

Majority of the parents are no doubt from the middle class background. But the dream to see their child excel and shine encourages and strengthens them. A large number of students who have sought their education from Bangalore are in respected position today. Thanks to Bangalore for what you have taught us.

Many  students who have chosen Bangalore as their study destination often get exploited by Private college management. Majority of students get admitted to private institution through the consultant agencies without any knowledge of the institution and its background. And many of them end up with disappointment when the reality and true picture of the institutions came into light. The outside students (Non-Karnataka in this case) are charged with hefty fees and this has led to commercialization of education.

From our Gallery Archives: Click the image to view the gallery - Justice for Richard

There are few situations where the security of North Eastern students in Bangalore has been questioned. Few unfortunate incidents too have happened in the past with the North Eastern students’ community being targeted. Many people claimed it as racial discrimination against North East students. The recent death of Richard Loitam in Acharya NRV College, Bangalore proved to add fuel to fire.  There has been a huge hue and cry by students from North East in Bangalore. The demonstrations then spread across India.

The student’s bodies in Manipur have even banned goods and products from Karnataka to be supplied in Manipur. The counselors of educational institutions from Bangalore, who are camping in Imphal, have been warned to leave Manipur. The student bodies are demanding for a CBI enquiry against the unnatural death of Richard. I fear this issue will galvanized if not sorted at the earliest.

I don’t understand the reason why the Government of Karnataka is so reluctant and slow in considering this issue. After all it’s a matter of death or a murder. Police were so unrealistic in handling the situation and it appears like they are favoring the college management. Richard Loitam’s two hostel mates identified as Vishal Banerjee and Syed Afzal Ali – who allegedly punched Richard, are yet to be charged or arrested. College management in a very silly fashion of defending themselves tried to put the whole blame on the deceased.

They accused Richard of being a drug abuser, an alcoholic, a heart patient and stated the reason of death as a minor bike accident that took place two days prior to the incident. His body was found bleeding from his mouth and nose possibly caused by deadly blows. Whatever, whoever or however it may be Richard is dead.

Based on the forensic report, Police has ruled out that it was a case of murder. This has sparked furor to the agitating students. Even the parents of Richard , both of whom happen to be doctors deny the charge that their son had a heart ailment and have demanded for higher investigation.  There is a serious need for reexamining the case. Substantive evidence about the case needs to be revealed. Otherwise the unrest amongst the student community may cause further turmoil.

Meanwhile the agitation in Manipur is taking has taken a slight undemocratic turn. Manipur has the record of agitation in different styles, to extremes even. Bandhs, blockades and boycotts are not a new phenomenon in Manipur. But the way in which the student bodies in Manipur are framing this issue I seriously fear it may harm the relation between Karnataka and  Manipur. A single unfortunate incident is well enough to wash away all the good deeds. This is happening in the case of Richard’s death. People forget what we have sought and benefitted from Bangalore for many years. Richard’s death has opened many avenues to blame, criticize and even quote racism.

It was an unfortunate incident that took place in college campus. I don’t think it was a racially motivated attack. But the way in which college management, police and the Government of Karnataka handled the situation gave ample opportunities to raise many doubts. There is even a fear of this issue getting politicized, the consequences of which will not be in the interest of anyone. What we need is justice to be done to the deceased and his family. Whoever is guilty should be punished.

The issue could have been sorted at the early stage if the Government of Karnataka understood the gravity of the situation and handled the issue in a more mature and pragmatic fashion. Still it is not too late; both the Governments of two states can come into a more meaningful consensus and play a more satisfactory role in bringing a logical solution to the issue.
(SanjeevNingombam is a Research Scholar from Manipur pursuing studies in Bangalore)


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