This report, first published at 11.09 pm on July 19, was republished with updates at 9:10 am on July 20.
New Delhi: A video that is circulating on social media, showing two Kuki women being paraded naked by a mob, is from May 4, a day after the ongoing clashes in Manipur began, The Wire has confirmed.
The incident occurred in B Phainom village in Kangpokpi district on May 4. One of the women was gang-raped, the first information report (FIR) filed in connection with the incident says.
The video shows several men, apparently Meiteis, walking alongside the two women as they are led into some fields. The video shows at least some of the men groping the women. Surrounding them are hundreds of other men, some bystanders others apparently part of the mob.
A ‘Zero FIR’ was filed by the Saikul police, in Kangpokpi district, on May 18. It was forwarded to the Nongpok Sekmai police station, The Wire has learnt. While an FIR is usually restricted by jurisdiction, a zero FIR can be filed in any police station. After registering the Zero FIR, the police station transfers it to the one that has the jurisdiction – which is then supposed to convert it into a regular FIR.
The Zero FIR has charges of rape and murder against “unknown miscreants” numbering “800-1,000”. The complaint filed against the incident claims that these men are suspected to be “members of Meitei Youth Organisations, Meetei Leepun, Kangleipak Kanba Lup, Arambai Tenggol and World Meitei Council, Schedule Tribe Demand Committee”.
The mob is accused of burning down houses in the B Phainom village, and accosting a group of five people who were fleeing. There were two men and three women in the group.
According to the complaint, the group was “snatched away from the custody” of a police team from the Nongpok Sekmai police station near Toubul (Sekmai khunou) “about 2 km from Nongpok Sekmai PS and about 3 km from 33 AR Somrei Post”.
One of the men was killed immediately by the mob, which then forced all the women to strip. One woman, in her 20s, was gang-raped, the FIR records; the other two women were molested but escaped. When the brother of the woman who was being raped tried to stop the assault, he was also murdered.
The Manipur police said that it was making “all-out effort” to arrest the culprits who were involved in the incident. The police said that a case of abduction, gang-rape and murder was registered in relation to the incident.
Late on July 19, Union women and child development minister Smriti Irani tweeted on the video, leading to opposition leaders and commentators almost immediately questioning as to why there was a two-month gap in the Union minister’s knowledge of the incident.
The horrific video of sexual assault of 2 women emanating from Manipur is condemnable and downright inhuman. Spoke to CM @NBirenSingh ji who has informed me that investigation is currently underway & assured that no effort will be spared to bring perpetrators to justice.
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) July 19, 2023
The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), an umbrella body of tribal groups, said the “horrifying ordeal suffered by these innocent women is amplified by the perpetrators’ decision to share the video, which shows the identity of the victims, on social media”. It vehemently condemned the sickening act and demanded that the Union and state governments, apart from statutory bodies like the National Commission for Women, should take cognizance of the offence and take all necessary measures to bring justice to the culprits.
The Working Group for Naga Rights in Manipur has also released a statement, observing that it is “appalled by the unspeakable evil of the unhinged Meitei mob”
“The beastly crime committed against the innocent residents of B. Phainom village in Kangpokpi district has taken more than two months to surface to public knowledge, but the visceral hatred of the mob that reeks in its perpetration is as new, immediate, and stomach-turning as the tragic murder of the Maring Naga lady a few days ago,” it said.
Clashes between the majority Meitei community and the Kuki community have been ongoing in Manipur since May 3. The violence began after a solidarity march held by tribal groups against the demand to grant Scheduled Tribe status to the Meitei community. So far, at least 140 people have been killed, many more have been injured and nearly 50,000 displaced.
Political parties slam BJP, Modi
With the monsoon session of parliament beginning, the incident may be raised – as opposition parties have already said that the Union government must discuss the situation in Manipur.
In their reaction to the video, opposition parties squarely placed the blame on the Union government’s “inaction” and Prime Minister Modi’s “silence”.
The Aam Aadmi Party said that the “inaction of the State and the Central government is painful for all the citizens of the country. We again request the intervention of the Prime Minister in Manipur. Turning a blind eye to the problem will not make it go away. The Aam Aadmi Party is ready and willing to assist in any manner as the Central Government may deem fit.”
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said Modi’s “silence and inaction” have led “Manipur into anarchy”.
The Kerala unit of the Congress tweeted that the silence of the state and Union governments is “infuriating”, adding that the chief minister and home minister should be removed.
The chief of Tipra Motha, Pradyot Manikya Deb Barma, tweeted that the “disturbing” video shows there is total breakdown in the relationship between the two communities there. “Hate has won in Manipur,” he said.
“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,” journalist Hoihnu Hauzel tweeted.