She isn’t a star or a politico. She is a regular city-bred girl. But her face seems to have become synonymous with the Justice for Richard cause.
Bangalore City-based Monika Khangembam, a 24-year-old mass communication post-graduate student is the one who made Loitam Richard’s story a headline across the media. Monika, who sparked the national struggle for justice, recently met Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal. Now back in Bengaluru, she is optimistic about bringing a change.
Talking about her meeting with the minister Monika says, “He is a straight-forward person. The most important development is that the word ‘race’ will be included in the UGC guidelines.
The guidelines state that, ‘can’t discriminate a person on the basis of caste and creed.’ They will now also include the word ‘race’. Additionally, he has told us that whatever can be done at the institutional level will be taken up by the HRD ministry.” It doesn’t stop here. Monika says the minister has promised to set up a central helpline cell with the collaborative effort of the police department and students association.
Not just in India, the youngster has been recognised by international agencies for her struggle to bring about a change on various other issues. Her campaign against Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur has led the British Council to invite her as a peer facilitator at the Euro-Africa Summit in Belgium this June. Additionally, because of her AFSPA campaign, she has been specially invited to the Tallberg Forum at Stockholm in Sweden where 300 leaders from around the world will gather in June for a dialogue on How on Earth can we live together? Beyond our imagination.
At present, Monika who is interning as a corporate communication and marketing trainee is busy ensuring Richard’s case goes forward. Though at the heart of this movement, Monika says she is a regular girl. But what transformed her into a ‘leading lady’ of the cause is interesting to know.
Like many other North-Eastern students, Monika came to Bengaluru to study at Commits. But the covert atrocities meted out to her contemporaries disturbed her. When she heard about Loitam Richard’s death, it was her interest to find out more about the boy that led her to his Facebook account. This was just a few days after Richard was allegedly murdered. “I messaged his friends who had posted on his wall saying, RIP Richard, those b******* must be punished. But no one replied and only after constantly trying, I was able to get in touch with his school friend and uncle who told me what happened,” says Monika. With the help of her online friend in Mumbai, Nipen Singha, Monika set up the Justice for Richard page that had 2,11,063 as of Sunday. “We started inviting friends to join the group and within a day, there were more than 2,000 who had joined us or shared the page,” she says.
Post the online rage, the rest is history. The support of the national media and support from every member of the FB group led the struggle to become a national movement. “None of the online members have met each other. But I am thankful to each and every campaigner who has made this struggle his/her struggle,” says Monika. Though the youth are branded as aggressive and irresponsible, here are youngsters who know what they want and are standing up for it. “We do not want to be anti-government. We just want to make people and authorities aware of what is making us unhappy,” says Monika who is disturbed by the way people from the North-East are stereotyped.
“We are called Chinese by other students. Most North-East students are ragged for months on end. We feel really hurt as we are part of India, we are Indians, then why are we treated like foreigners?” questions Monika.