Opinion

Manipur: After sacrificing the modesty of two tribal women, India is finally awake

Prime Minister dedicates 36 seconds to address the issue, breaking his 77-day-long slumber.

On July 19th, India shed tears of blood as a horrific video baring two tribal Manipuri women getting paraded naked under the influence of a mob circulated online. The incident had unfolded on May 4th, but the lack of internet access gave it a late exposure. 

Most of us had little idea about the ethnic-cum-communal tensions plaguing Manipur for the past two months. But, the dreadfulness of the situation got exemplified through this video of two Kuki women (tribal) getting disrobed and paraded naked in broad daylight. 

Political leaders across the spectrum, intellectuals, celebrities and the common people were left appalled by such atrocity. Politicians are now unabashedly entering mud-slinging contests, but the horrors of the victims still lie untended.

Although it pains us to describe the barbarity featured in the video, we cannot help but illustrate the shamelessness of the people who outraged these women’s modesty and recorded a video to “prove their point.”

What happened on May 4th in Manipur?

At around 3 PM of May 4th, 2023, a mob of 800 to 1000 men wielding weapons pillaged a tribal village named ‘B-Phaigom’ of the Kangpokpi district of Manipur. It is worth mentioning that it was the second day after the ethnic violence had erupted in the Churachand District of the state, and rumours and fake news were already instigating the masses against one another. 

Thangboi Vaiphei, the Chief of B. Phainom, narrated the horror and elaborated on how the miscreants pillaged their village to vandalise and burn down houses and retorted to looting all moveable properties. 

The FIR submitted by Vaiphei reads, “Five villagers (including three women), who feared for their lives, fled towards the forest. Later, they got rescued by the Nongpok Sekmai police team, and (they were) on their way to the Nongpok Sekmai police station. However, they were blocked on the way by a mob. (In a village named “Toubul,” 2 Kilometres away from Nongpok Sekmai Police Station)”

Intimidated by the mob, the police handed the villagers over, and the horror began then. The father in the group, a 56-year-old man, got murdered on the spot. The women got physically forced to disrobe themselves, and one of them, a 21-year-old girl, got gang-raped in broad daylight. 

When the brother, a 19-year-old boy, tried to defend his sister’s modesty, he got assaulted to death. With the help of some acquaintances, the women somehow managed to elope the scene. Today the survivors have taken refuge at the Government Relief Centre at Churachandpur.

Why did the police take so long to register the FIR?

It took Manipur Police forty-seven days to lodge an FIR. The police cited, “Due to communal tensions, the case could not get reported in time.” However, in the words of the Village chief, “The Police took sides favouring the Meiteis and neglecting the plea of the Kukis in the Phowaibi area.” He reinstated that the damages could have gotten avoided had the police taken an impartial stance in due time.

The Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) condemned the shameful incident and maintained that the perpetrators recorded the video to ‘send a message across’ to each tribal of the state.

The Chief Minister of Manipur, N. Biren Singh, waited two months after the assault to address the issue. It is still unclear why the Chief Minister waited so long before addressing the people of his state about his apprehension regarding the heinous incident. 

Is there a lack of mediation between the state’s Director General of Police (DGP) and CM? No one knows why the CM conveniently expressed his grief only after the matter invoked such outrage.

Prime Minister dedicates 36 seconds to address the issue, breaking his 77-day-long slumber.

The opposition had taken the Modi government by storm for not uttering a word about the ensuing violence in Manipur, a BJP-ruled state. Prime Minister Modi might have had the convenience to address the riots in France, but the Manipur issue never made the cut. 

The Honourable Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D. Y. Chandrachud took “suo motu cognisance” (on its own motion) of the viral video by denoting it as “deeply disturbing” and the “grossest violation of constitutional rights.” Seeking an explanation from the BJP Government both in the centre and the state, the Apex court reprimanded their inaction and threatened to “step in” if their slumber continued.  

After winning laurels in France and the USA, our Prime Minister faced no exemption from the European Union’s censure for his lack of action in Manipur. Hence, on July 20th, 77 days after Manipur’s ethnic devastation, the Prime Minister could afford 36 seconds to spare to address the matter. 

Addressing media outside the Parliament, he said, “The Manipur incident that has surfaced is shameful for any civilised society.” However, while addressing the ‘rape of Manipur,’ the PM retorted to a ‘balancing’ act by dispersing the blame on everyone else. He appealed to each Chief Minister of the country to safeguard women’s rights but chose to name only Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Manipur.

Since Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan are ruled by Congress, the Prime Minister diplomatically sent a message that the blame should not only get restricted to him and his double-engine government of Manipur. The opposition expressed discontentment against the PM’s speech, saying it was worse than his silence. 

Take away:

Why do women always bear the brunt of ethnic violence by sacrificing their modesty? From the ‘Rape of Nanjing,’ and the ‘Great Calcutta Massacre,’ to the ‘Bangladesh Liberation War,’ genocidal rapes have always been a tool to assert dominance. 

Women in our culture enjoy the most prestigious and sacred space. It gets said that women are the central essence of the pride of any community, and the monstrous incident of Manipur was a direct assault on the same. The perpetrators reasserted their sadism by recording a video of their heinous crimes.

The rest of India need not pride themselves as we are also the passive proponents in this disgraceful situation. We cannot undermine the shameful fact that it cost the modesty of two women to attract our and our Prime Minister’s attention on the matter. 

Unless we say what we do and do what we say, women will continue to be the cynosure of heinous crimes because the rest will keep validating their glory by placing a hypothetical tiara on their heads. 

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