A video showing two women from the Kuki-Zomi community being paraded naked by a mob of men began doing the rounds on Wednesday late at night, drawing massive condemnation. The clip brings to light an incident which took place in Manipur more than two months ago when violence first started.
Police said they have registered a case of gang rape and abduction, and would soon make arrests. It is among the first cases of sexual violence to be reported and which is being followed up with police action after the communal clashes in the State started on May 3.
How low will we fall?
The incident occurred in B Phainom village in Kangpokpi district on May 4, just a day after the violence erupted in the State.
The two women, one in her 20s and the other in her 40s are from the Kuki-Zomi-dominated hill district of Kangpokpi. In the video, they can be seen forced to walk naked down a road and towards a field by a mob of men. Some of the men can be seen dragging the two women, while others are forcibly groping them.
According to the FIR, while the video shows only two women, there was another woman in her 50s who was also forced to take off her clothes by the mob. The complaint also alleges that the younger woman was “brutally gang raped in broad daylight”.
In response to the release of the video, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum – a conglomerate of registered tribes in Churachandpur – demanded that the state and central governments, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and the National Commission for Women take cognisance of the incident and act against the perpetrators.
The Manipur police said it was making an “all-out effort” to arrest the culprits involved in the incident.
Statement issued by Manipur police apropos the viral video. pic.twitter.com/tTx3y3sJoV— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) July 19, 2023
Political leaders and others have expressed shock on social media over the Manipur incident and asked the centre and the state government to take action against the men involved in the horrific act. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted in Hindi that pictures of sexual violence against women coming from Manipur are heart-wrenching. "The amount of condemnation of this horrific incident of violence against women is less. Women and children have to bear the maximum brunt of violence in society," she tweeted.
The chief of Tipra Motha, Pradyot Manikya Deb Barma, tweeted that the “disturbing” video shows there is a total breakdown in the relationship between the two communities there. “Hate has won in Manipur,” he said.
Manipur resident and journalist Hoihnu Hauzel, "This breaks all levels of humanity.”
Attention India! The modesty of two tribal women from Manipur were outraged on 4th May. They were paraded naked, fondled and beaten in full public glare! A disturbing video taken by a perpetrator leaked and got viral today. This breaks all level of humanity. @PMOIndia @NCWIndia— hoihnu hauzel - www.thenestories.com (@hoihnu) July 19, 2023
Why are we still silent?
I am roughly 1000 km away from Manipur, but this video has shaken me to the core. I am angry, uncomfortable but supremely numb. The video was all over the internet yesterday, and trending on Twitter at #1 with millions of views. Then where is the outrage? Why are we still so silent? Why did it take over two months to make the arrests?
It is always women who become victims in the cacophony of war and politics. Rape is used as an instrument of violence during riots and conflict situations across the world. It is also recognised by the Genocide Convention international treaty.
Many moons ago, ethnic clashes witnessed the efforts made by women to bring back peace. In the past, groups knowns as Meira Paibis (Women Torchbearers) or Imas (Mothers of Manipur) staged non-violent protests against illicit liquor, the use of drugs, and most notably the ‘nude protest’ against the sexual assault and murder of Thangjam Manorama.
But today, women and children have become victims of Manipur’s bloody clashes and are unable to get the help that they desperately need. Politics need to take a backseat and citizens need to take notice of the depressing situation that has led everything to a halt in the State.
Views expressed by the author are their own