Manipur: Kuki women paraded naked and raped—76 days ago! (investigation ‘underway’)

The video clip of two naked women being groped and dragged about by a mob went viral on 19 July—but the incident is from 4 May, just as violence began blanketing the state

Illustration of a woman being assaulted and groped (image: IANS)
Illustration of a woman being assaulted and groped (image: IANS)

NH Political Bureau

“The horrific video of sexual assault of two women emanating from Manipur is condemnable and downright inhuman. Spoke to CM @NBirenSingh-ji who informed me that investigation is currently underway and assured that no effort will be spared to bring perpetrators to justice,” tweeted Smriti Irani, union minister for women and child development at 11.29 pm on Wednesday, 19 July.

Approximately an hour ago, at 10.32 pm, the BJP’s IT Cell chief Amit Malviya had posted a press note signed by K. Meghchandra Singh, superintendent of police. The press note claimed that the situation in the previous 24 hours in the state was peaceful but tense.

As for the video of the two naked women, the press note stated that the incident took place on 4 May and an FIR had been lodged.

The video has become viral overnight and incited outrage across the country, even as BJP supporters feel it is a ‘Congress conspiracy’ to discredit the government ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament that begins on Thursday, 20 July.

The horrific footage shows a mob dragging the two women, stripped bare, into a field. The faces of several people in the mob are clearly visible, with no attempts made to conceal their identities, and their actions of feeling up the women are brazen.

Manipur police will be hard put to explain why it has taken them 80 days to investigate such an incident and why they have failed to as yet identify and arrest the culprits, surely?

Worse, two media outlets had actually spoken to one of surviving victims as well as family members of the other—and yet it escaped national attention until now. One report was published online by The Print a week ago, including an interview with one of the rape survivors, a 40-year-old, who recalled the incident in graphic detail; The Quint more recently was able to access a 21 June FIR and speak to the other, younger survivor's family.

Another middle-aged woman recalled how five members of her family and three other from her neighbourhood were waylaid. The neighbour and his son were immediately killed, she said, while the two younger women were disrobed and taken away by the mob. Her husband’s life was spared at the intervention of some Meitei individuals who were known to the family. She herself was told to take off her clothes and led away to a field, but eventually she was not raped, she claimed. 

Meanwhile, Ms Irani appeared to have been alerted only recently—possibly only by the noise on social media or, more likely, by Mr Malviya.

Conscious of the Opposition plan to raise the PM’s silence on Manipur in Parliament, Ms Irani and Mr Malviya appeared to be engaging in a damage-control exercise.

While the Opposition is likely to demand a discussion on the Manipur situation and possibly an all-party parliamentary delegation to be sent to the state in turmoil, all eyes are on the prime minister and on home minister Amit Shah, who have maintained a studied silence on the developments.

The BJP, either in the state or the Central government, is yet to provide a convincing explanation of why chief minister N. Biren Singh has still not been replaced.

While Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma went on record to say that they were all working ‘silently’ to restore peace, the state has been far from peaceful. The failure of the Manipur chief minister to control armed mobs in the Imphal Valley should have been enough for the Centre to replace him. Most interlocutors believe that the chief minister must be replaced before any meaningful dialogue can take place—since his own ministers won't speak to him, key citizen groups won't sit down to even discuss peace with him at the table.

The right-wing troll army meanwhile was active throughout the night, casting aspersions on the Kuki women, alleging that the women were the ‘naked warriors’ and any sympathy for them was misplaced. They were also busy comparing cases of rape and molestation in other states, with Mr Malviya asking when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi would find the time to tweet on the rape of women in West Bengal.

The short video clip was apparently shot and posted by one of the perpetrators.

As most people online voiced disgust, shame and outrage at the incident, the clip appears to have finally jolted people in the Indian 'mainland' to feel some solidarity and collective culpability for the civil war-like situation that the north-eastern state has devolved into. Certainly, the nation's leaders have not led the people in that direction, for their part.

The clip has already drawn the attention of international media, too. Agencies like the National Human Rights Commission and National Commission of Women have some explaining to do, though how they might plausibly defend their indifference to the situation in the north-eastern state is hard to imagine.   

Here are some of the reactions online:

Ashamed [and] horrified at Manipur visuals. When will this satanic govt take responsibility? When will [the] Manipur [chief minister] resign? More important when will MaunGuru stop with state dinners abroad [and] speak about Manipur?
Mahua Moitra
The events in Manipur cannot be about lamenting the state of the nation. It has to be about demanding accountability from those elected to discharge those responsibilities.
Sushant Singh
Disgusting. Can we as a nation look them in the eye? As for governance, less said the better. Not expecting anything from the majoritarian forces busy trumpeting their cultural greatness. But what about us as a society? Does this scandalize us? Beyond party lines and politics?
Suhas Palshikar
People who outrage daily over whatever happens in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh are today silent about what happened in India. Disgusting sickening vile human beings both those who committed the heinous crime today [and] those who are silent.
Dr Jonathan Fernandez

Our country needs a PM, not a Vishwaguru. Our country needs a [home minister], not a Chanakya doing dirty tricks. Our country needs a women [and] child welfare minister, not a troll minister. Our country needs a government, not a PR agency. Our country needs an honest media, not a TRP circus.
Priyaa Yadav
Imagine, a violence of such a large scale where women are now paraded naked, has been completely erased from the mainstream TV media. They would have questioned the govt only if Manipur was an opposition-ruled state.
Kaushik Raj
It took a viral video to get them to... not act but tweet.
Makepeace Sitlhou
Deeksha Dwivedi as part of the National Fed of Indian Women (NFIW) fact-finding team visited Manipur. Manipur Police filed case against her. Offences are Section 121A, 124A, 153, 153A & 153B of the IPC. 2 of the offences are punishable wid life imprisonment on 11th July SC stayed her arrest. It has been more than two months since it started on 3 May. And this coward CM does not resign but files case against lawyers, citizens for finding facts.
Muslim women in Gujarat have (been) through worse than what you have seen in the Manipur video, pregnant woman was not only r@ped (but) her womb was r!pped apart (and) foetus was put up on the tip of the sword. (People) have rewarded the culprits with more power, that's how filthy this society is.
Sheldon Cooper
So angry watching the video of two Kuki women in Manipur. This incident happened in May; no arrests. Which means these men are walking around, free, nonchalant, emboldened, Whom does the internet shutdown enable? What else is happening in Manipur that’s hidden from the public?
Sarah Jacob
[Government of India and Government of Manipur must] be both held accountable for every death that has occurred [in Manipur violence], for every sexual assault [and] attack on women’s bodies happening since 3 May. This is unacceptable. Those in charge must take moral responsibility [and] RESIGN!
Binalakshmi Nepram

An attribution error in an earlier version of this article has been corrected.

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