A video of two tribal women being stripped, assaulted and paraded has sparked outrage across India after it emerged on social media, amid months-long deadly ethnic violence in the north-eastern Manipur state.
Large-scale violence has left at least 100 dead and displaced tens of thousands since May 3, when clashes began between the majority Hindu Meitei community and Christian Kuki tribes over a government policy that would grant greater benefits to Meiteis.
The shocking video emerged on Wednesday, despite authorities shutting down the internet in the state since violence began in May.
Police confirmed that the incident occurred on May 4 when a family of five fled to a forest to escape an armed mob that entered their village and vandalised houses.
As per the official complaint, the attackers first killed a 56-year-old man on the spot. They later assaulted the three women and paraded them naked while recording videos of the incident.
One of the women, 21, was allegedly gang raped, the FIR said, adding that the assailants also killed her 19-year-old brother for trying to intervene. The women managed to escape with the help of some locals, the complaint read.
“As regard to the video of two women paraded naked by unknown miscreants on 4th May 2023, a case of abduction, gang rape and murder was registered at Nongpok Sekmai police station against unknown armed miscreants,” the state police said in a statement, adding that the investigation was continuing.
“Police are making an all-out effort to arrest the culprits at the earliest,” the statement said.
But the horrific video has sparked outrage on social media with several politicians, journalists and women rights activists criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party that rules the state for its failure to control the violence.
“Government of India and Manipur be both held accountable for every death that has occurred Manipur Violence, for every sexual assault & attack on women’s bodies happening since 3 May. This is unacceptable. Those in charge must take moral responsibility & RESIGN,” Binalakshmi Nepram, a leading humanitarian and gender rights activist said.
A Kuki organisation, Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum, repeated allegations of the attack in their village in Kangpokpi district, a day after ethnic clashes broke out between the two groups.
They alleged that a mob of 800-1,000 men allegedly made a video of the women as they were paraded to a paddy field to be raped.
“The horrifying ordeal suffered by these innocent women amplified the perpetrators’ decision to share the video which shows the identity of the victims on social media,” the organisation said.
Mr Modi on Thursday ensured that action would be taken, as he spoke to the nation ahead of the parliament’s session. It was the first time the prime minister spoke on the months-long violence in the BJP-ruled state.
"I assure the nation that no guilty person will be spared. Law will take its course with all its might. What happened with the daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven," Mr Modi said.
The Chief Justice of India Dhanajaya Chandrachud has sought both the central government and Manipur government’s report within a week on the “unacceptable” incident expressing his “shock”.
“The visuals which are portrayed in the media reflect gross constitutional infraction. Using women as an instrument to perpetrate violence in a charged atmosphere is simply unacceptable" Justice Chandrachud stated.
The central government also asked social media sites, including Twitter to pull down the video as the matter is under investigation.