Shocking video emerges of sexual assault in India’s Manipur state amid ethnic violence

Shocking video emerges of sexual assault in India’s Manipur state amid ethnic violence

Shocking video emerges of sexual assault in India’s Manipur state amid ethnic violence



A graphic video of two women being sexually abused in public in India’s northeastern state of Manipur has provoked outrage and condemnation. The video, which went viral on social media on July 20, 2023, shows the women being forced to walk naked through a crowd of fully clothed men, many brandishing long canes or sticks as weapons¹⁵. According to a police complaint, one of the women was gang-raped by at least four men. The incident took place on May 4, 2023, in B. Phainom village in Kangpokpi district, where ethnic clashes between the majority Meitei community and the tribal Kuki minority have been raging since May 3.

What is the background of the ethnic violence in Manipur?

Manipur is a state in northeast India that shares borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh. It has a population of about 2.8 million people, belonging to various ethnic groups. The Meitei are the largest group, comprising about 53% of the population, followed by the Naga (24%) and the Kuki (16%). The Meitei are predominantly Hindu, while the Naga and Kuki are mostly Christian.

The ethnic violence in Manipur erupted on May 3, 2023, after thousands of students, mostly from the Kuki tribe, took part in a rally against the Meitei community's demand for special tribal status. The Meitei have been petitioning for tribal status since 2012, arguing that it would enable them to buy land and provide more opportunities for government jobs. However, the Kuki and Naga tribes oppose this demand, fearing that it would undermine their own rights and interests.

The rally turned violent when some protesters attacked Meitei shops and vehicles in Imphal, the state capital. The violence soon spread to other districts, where Meitei mobs retaliated by burning down Kuki villages and killing Kuki men. The sexual assault on the two women occurred on May 4, after their village was torched and two men were beaten to death by a Meitei mob.

According to the Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum (ITLF), a Kuki organization, the sexual assault was triggered by fake news circulated by some Meitei groups that a Meitei woman had been raped and murdered by Kuki men. The ITLF said that this was a deliberate attempt to incite communal hatred and violence.

Since then, more than 100 people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced by the ethnic clashes. The state government has imposed curfew and deployed security forces to restore law and order. However, the situation remains tense and volatile.

What has been the response to the sexual assault video?

The sexual assault video has sparked widespread anger and shock across India and beyond. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the incident as "shameful" and "unforgivable" and said that "the law will take its course with all its might". He also expressed his grief and solidarity with the victims of the violence in Manipur.

The main opposition Congress party also denounced the sexual assault as "inhuman" and "barbaric" and demanded justice for the victims. The party's president Mallikarjun Kharge tweeted that "humanity has died in Manipur". He also accused Modi's government of failing to protect the people of Manipur from communal violence.

The Upper House of Parliament was adjourned minutes into reconvening for the Monsoon session after opposition MPs sparked an outcry over the refusal to discuss the issue of Manipur.

The National Commission for Women (NCW), a statutory body that deals with women's rights issues, took suo motu cognizance of the sexual assault video and asked the Manipur police to submit a detailed report on the case within seven days. The NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma said that she was "deeply disturbed" by the video and that "such heinous crimes against women cannot be tolerated". She also urged the state government to provide security and relief to the affected women.

The Manipur police said that they have arrested four people accused of abduction and gang rape and are tracing at least 30 others who were involved in the sexual assault. The police also said that they have registered cases under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the accused.

The ITLF demanded that all those responsible for the sexual assault be arrested and punished as per the law. It also called for an independent inquiry into the incident and the ethnic violence in Manipur. It said that the state government and the central government have failed to protect the rights and dignity of the tribal women and have been "silent spectators" to the atrocities committed by the Meitei mobs.

The video has also drawn international attention and condemnation. The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) issued a statement expressing its "deep concern" over the sexual assault and the ethnic violence in Manipur. It urged the Indian authorities to "ensure prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations" into the incidents and to "hold those responsible accountable". It also called for "urgent measures" to prevent further violence and to protect the rights of all communities in Manipur.

What are the implications of the sexual assault video?

The sexual assault video has exposed the brutal reality of how rape is weaponized in conflict situations. It has also highlighted the vulnerability and marginalization of women, especially tribal women, in India's northeast. The video has raised questions about the role of social media in spreading fake news and inciting communal hatred. It has also challenged the state's ability and willingness to ensure justice and accountability for the victims of sexual violence and ethnic violence.

The video has also triggered a public outcry and a demand for action from various quarters. It has put pressure on the political leaders, both at the state and central level, to address the root causes of the ethnic violence in Manipur and to find a lasting solution to the conflict. It has also mobilized civil society groups, women's organizations, human rights activists, and media outlets to raise awareness and solidarity with the victims of sexual violence and ethnic violence.

The video has also shown the courage and resilience of the two women who survived the sexual assault. They have not given up their fight for justice and dignity. They have spoken out against their attackers and have sought legal recourse. They have also received support and assistance from their families, communities, and NGOs. They have shown that they are not just victims, but survivors.

Source

(1) What is happening in India’s Manipur? | Sexual Assault News - Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/7/21/what-is-happening-in-indias-manipur.
(2) Manipur state, India: Shocking video emerges of sexual assault amid .... https://www.cnn.com/2023/07/20/asia/india-manipur-sexual-violence-video-intl/index.html.
(3) Manipur sexual assault case: 4 accused remanded in 11-day police custody; another suspect's house torched. https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/india/manipur-sexual-assault-case-4-accused-remanded-in-11-day-police-custody-another-suspects-house-torched-11004841.html.
(4) Manipur: India video shows how rape is weaponised in conflict. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-66254008.
(5) Assault on Manipur women: Authorities claim naked parading was not linked to fake news. https://www.wionews.com/india-news/manipur-women-paraded-naked-was-spontaneous-act-say-authorities-618069.
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