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Thursday, April 25, 2024

A message to the women in Manipur: No woman, No cry!

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“We are dealing with something of an unprecedented magnitude of violence against women in communal and sectarian violence,” said Chief Justice D. Y. Chandrachud.

Manipur is at a tipping point of a civil war. And in a conflict or war, sexual violence is an expression of power and control.

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate from Iran beautifully articulated her thoughts on rape and sexual violence. She said: “We have to be a loud and clear voice for those whose voices cannot be heard. Under international law, rape is a crime against humanity and it is our duty to work to bring impunity for such crimes to an end.”

The people of Manipur and the people of India have to be loud and clear for those whose voices cannot heard.

The viral video of the two women paraded naked and sexually abused on May 4th at B Phainom Village in the Thoubal district shocked not only the people of India but people around the world.

A Zero FIR was registered on May 18th, 2023, and after the video of the horrific and heinous crime went viral another FIR was registered on June 21, 2023, U/S 153a/398/427/436/448/302/354/364/326/37/6/34 IPC & 25 (I-C) A. Act. In the complaint letter written to the Manipur Police by the B Phainom Village Chief while excluding the names, it states: At about 3 pm some unknown miscreants suspected to be members Meitei Youth Organisations, Meitei Leepun, Kangleipak Kanba Lup, Arambai Tenggol and World Meitei Council, Schedule Tribe Demand Committee numbering about 900-1000 persons carrying sophisticated weapons like AK Rifles, SLA, INAS and .303 Rifles, forcefully entered our village B Phainom. The violent mob vandalized all the houses and burnt them to the ground after looting all the movable properties and cash including furniture, electronic items, utensils, clothes, grains, cattle, domestic animals, etc. leaving all of us homeless. 

Five villagers, one male aged 56 years, another male aged 19 years, a woman aged 21 years, another woman aged 42 years, and one more woman aged 52 years. who feared the loss of life fled towards the forest. They were later rescued by the Nonpok Sekmai Police team and on their way to Nonpok Sekami Police Station. However, they were blocked on the way by the mob and snatched them from the custody of the police team by the violent mob neat Toubul (Sekmai Khunou) about 2 km from Nonpok Sekami Police Station and about 3 km from 33 AR Somrei Post. 

The male aged 56 years old was killed on the spot by the mob. All three women were physically forced to remove their clothes and were stripped naked in front of the mob. The 21-year-old was brutally gang-raped in broad daylight in front of the witnesses, namely the male aged 19 years, and women aged 42 years and 52 years. The 19-year-old boy who was younger brother tried to defend his sister’s modesty and life but he was murdered by members of the mob on the spot.”

This case is now being transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) for investigations.

Earlier this week I spoke to the 21-year-old victim and 42-year-old victim in the B Phainom Village case. Hearing their horrific ordeal I was left shocked and terribly disturbed. The Manipur police could not protect them. In fact, according to them, they were dragged out of the police van and the police did not even attempt to stop the mob from dragging them out. Sadly, two men recognized by them were men who came to their village to play volleyball with the Kukis in the village including the 19-year-old boy, whom they beat to death.

All through their ordeal, they told me, they were being shouted abuses, and called ‘Infiltrators’. The people in the mob were wearing black t-shirts with a red logo.  They were pulling their hair and sexually violating them. They also shockingly revealed that the police were there with the mob which was attacking their village. The police picked them up from near home and took them a little away from the village when the mob attacked the police van. They categorically stated that they were given to the mob by the police.

Yet another gruesome case that did not make national headlines because there was no viral video. This was the case of Olivia and Florence at the Gama Car Wash, near Konung Mamang. The case has now been transferred to the CBI for investigation. In the FIR registered on May 16th, 2023, U/S 326/354/366/375/302/34 IPC. A copy of the father’s complaint states: On May 4th, 2023 at around 5 pm, my daughter aged 21 years Olivia and her friend Florence aged about 24 years who were temporarily working as caretakers at Gama Car Wash near Konung Mamang Oil Pump were brutally murdered after being raped and gruesomely tortured by unknown persons suspected to be members of Meitei Youth Organisations, Meitei Leepun, Kangleipak Kanba Lup, Arambai Tenggol and World Meitei Council, Schedule Tribe Demand Committee numbering about 100-200 persons at their rented house near Konung Mamang. 

In another case, a 37-year-old woman has complained to the Manipur police alleging that she had been gang-raped by Kuki men when she was trying to flee her burning house with her two sons, niece, and sister-in-law. The incident came to focus when the woman filed a ‘ZERO FIR’ was filed with the Bishnupur police station. She claimed that she was gang-raped by a group of men on 3 May, the day ethnic violence broke out. The FIR states that, on 3 May at 6.30 pm, miscreants started burning the woman and her neighbor’s houses, after which she, her two sons, niece, and sister-in-law ran as fast as they could, I carried my niece on my back and also held my two sons and started running from the spot along with my sister-in-law. She was also carrying a baby on her back and running ahead of me. Then I stumbled and fell down on the road and was unable to get up, my sister-in-law came back running towards me, picked up my niece from my back, and ran along with my two sons as I insisted. When I finally managed to get up, some five to six miscreants got hold of me. They started verbally abusing and assaulting me. Despite my resistance, I was forcefully pinned down. After this, the men started sexually assaulting me.

In the Srimad- Bhagavatam it is written: The protection of women maintains the chastity of society, by which we can get a good generation for peace, tranquillity, and progress of life. 

I wonder what society are we creating in Manipur or better put we as Indians are allowing to fester in Manipur, a land known to be worshippers of the sacred feminine.

The Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) has taken over the investigation of 27 FIRs lodged in connection with ethnic clashes in Manipur that have claimed more than 160 lives in nearly four months, officials said. According to the latest data, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has so far registered 27 cases handed over to it by the state police — 19 cases of crime against women, three related to an armory loot by a mob, two of murder and one each of rioting and murder, kidnapping and general criminal conspiracy, sources aware of the developments told GoaChronicle.com.

People who come out in mobs and rape women are cowards. They need the protection of a mob to carry out their diabolic urges which are egged on by the deviants in the mob and its driving idealogy at that point in time. The Meitei mob raped the Kuki women and termed them infiltrators, Kuki mob raped the Meitei woman.

I have immense faith in the Indian judiciary but the truth is that this fight for justice for all cases of sexual violence against women in Manipur is going to be a long-fought journey for the women and their families who are still alive.

The conflict in Manipur reminds me of the words of Ruta Sepetys in her book Salt to the Sea, “What had human beings become? Did war make us evil or just activate an evil already lurking within us?”. The people of Manipur need to think hard and we as Indians outside of Manipur need to think harder.

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