In what Amnesty International has described as a means “to inflict lasting physical and psychological damage on women and girls during ethnic violence”, a video has surfaced showing two Christian women belonging to the Kuki tribe paraded naked by a mob of Hindu majority Meitei tribe in Manipur state of India.
The atrocious incident of the two women being disrobed and paraded naked on the village road was reportedly filmed in early May but went viral on social media on Wednesday.
The incident shows how less the world knows about the extent and the scale of the conflict in Manipur which has claimed over 150 lives so far.
“When we resisted, they told me: ‘If you don’t take off your clothes, we will kill you’,” a survivor, who is in her mid-forties told Scroll. Then as obeyed them to “protect herself”, the men slapped and punched her.
The woman from the Christian (Kuki) community said the assault took place near her village, B Phainom, in Kangpokpi district on May 4, a day after clashes erupted between the two ethnic groups.
Speaking on the horrific incident, the survivor said after hearing about Meitei mobs “burning homes” in a nearby village, her family and others fled through a dirt lane but were discovered. A neighbour and his son were killed nearby, and the mob assaulted the women, forcing them to strip.
She added that the men dragged her to a paddy field near the road and asked her to “lie down” there. “I did as they told me, and three men surrounded me… One of them told the other, ‘let’s rape her’, but she was ‘lucky enough to escape’.
She, however, was not aware of what was happening to her 21-year-old neighbour, because she was some distance away.
The incident prompted Amnesty International to express ‘shock’ saying “A video emerging out of Manipur showing a mob of Meitei men assaulting and parading two tribal Kuki women naked to gang-rape them is a shocking reminder of the scale and severity of the ongoing impunity in the state”.
“Rape and sexual violence have been used to inflict lasting physical and psychological damage on women and girls during ethnic violence. This brutal treatment is aimed at degrading and dehumanizing the tribal Kuki community,” Amnesty said.
“All allegations of sexual violence must be effectively, independently, and impartially investigated to ensure survivors receive justice and reparation. In addition, Amnesty International reiterated that Indian authorities must immediately restore internet access in Manipur.
‘INDIA SHAMED BY MANIPUR INCIDENT’
Speaking publically about the Manipur clashes for the first time since they erupted in May, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that the country has been “shamed” by the video.
“The Manipur incident is shameful for any civilised society,” Modi told reporters. “It has shamed the whole nation.”
The violence in Manipur, prompted by a dispute over access to government jobs and other perks, has seen homes and churches torched, with tens of thousands of people fleeing to government-run camps.
The clashes between vigilante gangs from rival communities have pitted the majority of Meitei, who are mostly Hindus and live in and around Imphal, against the mainly Christian Kuki in the surrounding hills.
The Kuki community had protested Meitei’s demands for reserved public job quotas and college admissions as a form of affirmative action.
This also stoked long-held fears among the Kuki that the Meitei might also be allowed to acquire land in areas currently reserved for them and other tribal groups.
The Kuki women reportedly shown in the video told The Wire news site that police were present at the time, and did not help them.
Manipur’s state government, led by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said it is investigating the filmed incident, with a suspect arrested on Thursday.
Opposition lawmakers in New Delhi have criticised Modi for silence over unrest in Manipur.
The European Parliament has called on the authorities to “promptly halt the ethnic and religious violence”.
The EU resolution said there were “concerns about politically motivated, divisive policies that promote Hindu majoritarianism in the area”.
DY Chandrachud, chief justice of India’s Supreme Court, said the abuse of the women seen in the video was “simply unacceptable”.
Legal news site Bar and Bench quoted Chandrachud as saying that if the government “does not act, we will”.