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'Police Drove Kuki Women Towards Meitei Mob': Villagers Recount Manipur Horror

"In Lamka, your people raped my people, so we are going to do the same to you people," the mob told a woman witness.

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Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

(Trigger Warning: Descriptions of rape, sexual assault. Reader discretion advised.)

Manipur Police officials, "instead of driving the [Kuki] women to safety, drove [them] towards the Meitei mob," alleged a resident of B Phainom village, recounting the horrific incident of three Kuki women being paraded naked, molested, and sexually assaulted by a Meitei mob on 4 May.

A purported video of the incident, which is being circulated on social media, shows two women being groped and led towards a paddy field by the mob. The third woman is not seen in the video.

As per witness testimonials and First Information Reports (FIR) accessed by The Quint, one of the three women was gang-raped and her father and brother were murdered by the mob.

The resident, who witnessed the attacks, also claimed that the mob told her that it was an act of retribution. "In Lamka area, your people raped my people, therefore, we are going to do the same to you people," she was told by the mob.

What exactly happened on 3 and 4 May? How did an alleged Meitei mob manage to sexually assault three women and murder two men in B Phainom village? Here's a timeline of the events.

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When Meitei Mob Attacked the Village

Night, 3 May: 

Meitei groups came to B Phainom village on the night of 3 May to allegedly "destroy their homes," the resident said in her testimony, which was accessed by The Quint through the Zomi Students' Federation.

Although the villagers were able to "resist them on the first night", the mob returned to the village on 4 May, only to loot and plunder their homes, claimed the witness.

It was on 3 May that ethnic clashes first erupted between Kuki and Meitei communities in Manipur, which has led to casualties, property loss, and internet suspension for nearly two months now.

4 May:

An FIR filed at Saikul Police Station stated that on 4 May, some 800-1,000 people, suspected to be members of Meitei youth organisations such as Meetei Leepun, Kangleipak Kanba Lup (KKL), Arambai Tenggol, World Meitei Council (WMC), and Schedule Tribe Demand Committee (STDC) returned to B Phainom village, carrying weapons.

Witnesses said that most of them were wearing black T-shirts and were carrying rifles, knives, axes, swords, and iron rods. Some of the T-shirts reportedly said 'MEITEI LEEPUN', they claimed.

The FIR stated that the "violent mob vandalised all the houses, burnt them to the ground, and looted all moveable properties, including cash, furniture, electronic items, utensils, clothes, grains, and cattle."

As violence broke out, "...we shifted our belongings and went into hiding in a different place. But the Meitei people caught us where we went hiding, our family…" the woman witness said.

The mob reportedly captured the woman, her husband, sons, brothers, niece, nephew, and granddaughter, the chief of the village, his wife, and another woman. But they were all split up.

Her brother and nephew were killed, whereas her niece was raped by the mob, she alleged in her testimonial. 

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Woman Raped, Her Father & Brother Killed

4 pm, 4 May:

The FIR stated that five villagers from the same party – a 56-year-old man, his 21-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son, and two other women, aged 42 and 52 – managed to flee towards the forest.

They were later rescued by a team of cops from the Nongpok Sekmai Police Station and were on their way back to the station, which was only 2 km away. 

However, they were blocked on the way by a mob and were taken into their custody yet again, near Toubul.

The 56-year-old man was killed on the spot by the mob, as per the FIR. It further said that all three women were "physically forced to remove their clothes and were stripped naked in front of the mob."

The woman witness, who was the sister of the 56-year-old man, said, "They [the mob] lined us up, but not together, on the same road. My brothers [sic] started running towards me and they chased them down. When they caught us, my brother's daughter had already collapsed unconscious. So, her brother carried her along and ran. The Meiteis chased him. They circled him. My granddaughter and I managed to get away. The Meiteis beat my brother to death..."

She added that her 21-year-old niece was gang-raped by the mob. Her 19-year-old brother, who tried to defend her from the mob, was also beaten to death.

'Police Drove Women Towards the Mob'

The woman witness said that the mob told her that "in Lamka area, your people raped my people, therefore, we are going to do the same to you people."

"...one of them raised his axe aiming at me. However, I continued begging them… then they attempted to axe my husband, but our sons pushed him inside a pit, thereby saving him… that is how we survived."

She further alleged that the police, too, were responsible for the incident. "All those people killed, the women, they were told to stay put inside the police vehicle. However, the policemen instead of driving the women to safety, drove towards the mob and kept them there for the mob to beat them," she claimed. 

The three women who were stripped naked managed to escape from the area with the help of some people who were known to them, the FIR stated.

Speaking to The Wire, one of the survivors said that though Manipur Police was present at the crime scene, they didn't help them. Another second survivor, whose father and brother were killed, said she saw four policemen watching the violence unfold as they were sitting inside a car. "They didn't do anything to help us," she told the publication.

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One Person Arrested in Incident

18 May & 21 June:

A zero FIR was filed at Saikul Police Station on 18 May, nearly two weeks after the incident occurred, based on a complaint by the chief of B Phainom village. The FIR states that due to "communal tensions, the case could not be reported in time."

A subsequent FIR was registered on 21 June under Sections 302 (murder), 354 (outraging a woman's modesty), 376 (rape), and 326 (causing grievous hurt) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

It named "unknown miscreants numbering about 900-1,000 persons," suspected to be members of Meitei youth organisations Meetei Leepun, Kangleipak Kanba Lup (KKL), Arambai Tenggol, World Meitei Council (WMC), and Schedule Tribe Demand Committee (STDC).

19 July:

The video, which showed a Meitei mob parading the women naked and sexually assaulting them, surfaced on social media. Several activists and politicians condemned the video, calling for strict action.

20 July:

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh tweeted that the first arrest has been made in the case.

"After taking a suo-moto cognisance of the incident immediately after the video surfaced, the Manipur Police swung to action and made the first arrest this morning. A thorough investigation is currently underway and we will ensure strict action is taken against all the perpetrators, including considering the possibility of capital punishment. [sic]"

The accused, identified as Heradas, aged 32, was arrested from Thoubal district, India Today quoted the police as saying. He was identified with the help of the video, in which he is wearing a green T-shirt.

Meanwhile, acording to several reports, the video has been withheld from Twitter and other social media platforms in response to legal demands.

(With inputs from Madhusree Goswami)

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Topics:  Viral Video   Rape   Sexual Assault 

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