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Video Shows Kuki Women Being Paraded Naked by Meitei Mob, One Accused Arrested

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh tweeted on Thursday, 20 July, that the first arrest in the case has been made.

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

A day after a shocking video showed a mob of men, learnt to be from the Meitei community, parading at least two Kuki-Zo women naked towards a paddy field near B Phainom village in Manipur, Chief Minister N Biren Singh tweeted on Thursday, 20 July, that the first arrest in the case has been made.

"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.

The women in the video, who were visibly distressed and crying for help, were dragged and molested by their captors.

The incident occurred in Kangpokpi district on 4 May – a day after ethnic violence broke out in the northeastern state, as per the police. The video surfaced nearly 77 days after the incident.

The Quint has accessed a complaint filed on 18 May at Saikul Police Station by the head of B Phainom village, where the women resided. As per the complaint, three women were "physically forced to remove their clothes and were stripped naked in front of the mob."

One of the women was brutally gang-raped, and her brother and father were murdered by the mob, the complaint alleged.
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Based on the complaint, a zero FIR was registered under sections 302 (murder), 354 (outraging a woman's modesty), 376 (rape), and 326 (causing grevious 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).

What Happened?

As per the complaint, on 4 May, at least 800-1,000 men from various Meitei organisations descended on B Phainom village – a Kuki-dominated village – with ammunition, and allegedly burnt houses down.

In the chaos that followed, five villagers – two men and three women – escaped to a nearby forest. They were later rescued by a police team from the Nongpok Sekmai police station.

However, on their way back to the station, a mob stopped them near Toubul (nearly 2 km from the station) and caught hold of the villagers. The mob allegedly forced the three women to strip and paraded them naked.

One of them, aged 21, was brutally gang-raped and her 56-year-old father was killed on the spot. Her 19-year-old brother, who tried to defend her, was also murdered by the mob, claimed the complainant.

As per a report on The Print, the men screamed, "We will do to you what your men did to our women."

Revisiting the ordeal, one of the survivors, who is in her 40s, told the publication that they wanted to take "revenge for the Churachandpur case."

She was referring to a false claim that a Meitei nurse working in Churachandpur was raped by a tribal mob on 3 May, which led to 'revenge rapes' by Meitei groups. The claim, however, was debunked when the victim's father clarified on a news channel that nothing had happened to her.

"I can't make sense of anything. The men were under the influence of alcohol. I don't think they knew what they were doing," the survivor told The Print.

Another survivor told Scroll.in that she was told to "lie down" after the mob dragged her to the paddy field. "I did as they told me, and three men surrounded me… One of them told the other, 'let's rape her', but ultimately they did not," she told the publication.

'They Caught Our Family'

In an interview transcript accessed by The Quint through the Zomi Students' Federation, one of the residents of B Phainom village and a close relative of the woman who was gang-raped, recalled how the Meitei mob attacked her village and family on 4 May.

As per her testimonial, she witnessed the mob raping her niece and beating her brother and nephew to death.

"The first night (3 May), the Meiteis came to burn the houses but we were able to resist them. The next day when they came, we shifted out our belongings and went into hiding in a different place. The Meitei people caught my family, one of our sisters, and our chief, and his wife. When they caught us, my granddaughter was crying therefore they sent me away in a different location." (sic)

She added that her husband, sons, brother, nephew, and niece were moved to separate locations.

"They lined us up but not together on the same road. My brother [and nephew] started running towards me and they chased them down. When they caught us, my brother's daughter had already collapsed and became 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.

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. 

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'Horrifying': Activists Condemn Incident

After the video of the incident surfaced, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum (ITLF) in Manipur termed it a "horrifying" and "despicable scene."

"The Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum vehemently condemns the sickening act and demands that the central and state governments, National Commission for Women, and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes to take cognizance of the offense and take all necessary measures to bring justice to the culprits," a statement from the group said.

"Watching that sordid video of two Kuki-Zo women being paraded naked and their private parts touched publicly is a barbaric act never witnessed before...," journalist and social activist Patricia Mukhim wrote on Facebook.

"Humans have sunk to the worse possible depths. It leaves one feeling wretched and wondering when the Prime Minister of this country will speak up and take control of things? Or is it a central Government strategy to allow the warring communities to fight to the finish?"

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