New Delhi/Imphal: Both the Kuki women seen in the harrowing video from Manipur who were paraded naked and sexually assaulted – the FIR on the incident says one of them was gang-raped – have told The Wire that Manipur Police had been present at the scene of the crime but did not help them.
The incident took place on May 4 in Kangpokpi. At that point, ethnic violence between the Meitei and Kuki communities had just begun in the state.
The horrific video which forced the Biren Singh government into acknowledging the scale and type of violence in the state and apprehend an accused months after the incident took place, shows two women stripped naked and being paraded by a mob.
One of the survivors in the video said, “Manipur’s Police were present there, but they didn’t help us.”
Another survivor said that she saw four policemen sitting in the car and looking at the violence. “They didn’t do anything to help us,” she said. Her father and brother were killed in this mob attack.
Calls to the Saikul police station, made by The Wire, have failed to connect. This report will be updated if police responds to these claims.
The first survivor said that residents of the B. Phainom village in Kangpokpi received information from their Meitei neighbours that Meitei mobs were making their way to the village. Kuki villagers knew they must run out of the village, but the families of the two women seen in the video were unable to and were captured by the mob.
The complaint to police, which The Wire has seen, claims that the Meitei mob were armed with sophisticated weapons.
“I was thinking about the other survivor…but the attackers were not thinking of anything. They took us to a bushy area. Three people held me and one gave out a call, “Those who want to torture them, please come’,” the survivor said.
The woman said that there were people who helped them among Meitei community members too. “Some of them asked us to take off our clothes, but there were also people who wanted to save us,” she said.
The FIR registered on June 21, 2023 speaks of three women-survivors in the incident of May 4, 2023, who were stripped naked and paraded. The FIR records a gangrape of a survivor.
The other survivor told The Wire that no rapes took place. “We were not raped by them – they just took off our clothes and touched our bodies,” she said. As noted before, the complaint and FIR allege the gang-rape of one woman.
However, Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover told The Wire that the legal definition of rape is much wider and not limited to penile-vaginal penetration. Grover highlighted that any of these acts constitute rape if done against the will or without the consent of a woman:
– Penetration of a penis into the vagina, mouth, urethra, or anus
– Insertion of any object or body part (other than a penis) into the vagina, urethra, or anus
– Manipulation of any body part of a woman to cause penetration into the vagina, urethra, or anus
– Applying mouth into the vagina, urethra, or anus of a woman.
Manipur is under an internet shutdown since May 3 – a fact that could explain the delay in this video making its way to Twitter.
On July 19, Manipur Police tweeted on the matter, after what many have pointed out was “77 days since the incident.”
was registered at Nongpok Sekmai PS (Thoubal District) against unknown armed miscreants and the investigation has been started. The State Police is making all-out effort to arrest the culprits at the earliest.
— Manipur Police (@manipur_police) July 19, 2023
The Manipur Police tweeted:
“All out effort to arrest culprits as regard to the viral video of 02 (two) women paraded naked:
“As regard to the viral video of 02 (two) women paraded naked by unknown armed miscreants on 4th May, 2023, a case of abduction, gangrape and murder etc, was registered at Nongpok Sekmai PS (Thoubal District) against unknown armed miscreants and the investigation has been started. The State Police is making all-out effort to arrest the culprits at the earliest (sic).”
No one has yet been arrested in the matter.
Journalist Vasudha Venugopal has tweeted based on inputs from government sources that the Union government is “likely to initiate action against Twitter as showing videos that could lead to problems in law and order”.
“IT ministry is now working across platforms to see that the video is not being spread,” her tweet said.
A member of the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) who met the two survivors spoke to The Wire.
“My heart is heavy. I have heard their stories, I met them, I talked to them, but seeing the video has made my heart newly heavy. All these stories of women and children being tortured, and not even a single word from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi?” she asked.
Modi spoke on the video shortly after the report was published.
Since past two months, members of the Kuki community have claimed that the Manipur Police has favoured the Meitei community.
Note: This report has been updated since publication with additional comments by one of the survivors.