'Revenge Rape': Manipur Incident is a Testament to the Harm Caused by Fake News

Although viral videos from Manipur are being regularly debunked, m/disinformation has been rampant.

4 min read
Hindi Female

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

The Meitei mob, while committing the horrifying sexual assault on three Kuki women in Manipur's Kangpokpi district on 4 May, said it was an act of "revenge for the Churachandpur case," according to one of the survivors.

Speaking to The Print, the survivor said, "It was all because of fake news."

She was possibly referring to a piece of disinformation about a Meitei nurse being raped and killed by people from the Kuki-Zo community in the district hospital in Churachandpur on 3 May.

The false claim that went viral was debunked by several fact-checking organisations, including The Quint's WebQoof team. The nurse's father had even clarified on Impact TV, a Valley-based news channel, that nothing of the sort had happened.

However, the outcome of that piece of fake news is a testament to how much harm disinformation can actually cause. Meitei groups attacked B Phainom village on the night of 3 May – and then again on 4 May – to allegedly destroy Kuki homes. On the second day of the violence, they stripped three hapless women naked, paraded them, and molested them as they cried for help.


Manipur Violence and Fake News

Although viral videos claiming to show the situation in Manipur were regularly being debunked, m/disinformation has been rampant in this conflict. The Quint's WebQoof team debunked the first incident of 'fake news' on 5 May related to the unrest in Manipur, where an old video of people firing guns in the air was linked to the violence in the state. 

The viral claim about the rape and murder of a Meitei nurse went viral shortly after the conflict started on 3 May. The claim was shared with a graphic photograph showing a woman's dead body on the road.

However, the claim was completely false. The photo was an old one dating back to November 2022 and showed a woman's body in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, who was shot dead by her parents for marrying outside her caste.

Another instance of claims of violence against women in Manipur is a distressing video of people torturing a woman before shooting her, which social media users shared widely to claim that Meitei civilians had tortured and killed a young girl from the Kuki-Zo community.
Although viral videos from Manipur are being regularly debunked, m/disinformation has been rampant.

The claim was false, the incident was an old one from Myanmar.

(Photo: The Quint)

This, too, was 'fake news', as the video was reportedly from December 2022 and showed an incident from Myanmar's Sagaing, where a 24-year-old teacher Aye Mar Tun was shot at on suspicion of giving information to the junta.

Several other claims on social media used visuals from Myanmar being to share narratives against the Kuki-Zo community.

  • One video was shared with the false claim that it showed 'Kuki terrorists' using drones to track and target the Manipur police. But it was actually a video of the Chinland Defense Force (CDF) commandos from Myanmar.

  • In another claim, a set of three videos were shared to claim that they showed 'armed Kuki terrorists' getting ready for the "ethnic cleansing of Meitei Hindus" in Manipur. However, these videos were also from Myanmar and show CDF and Karen National Union personnel.

It doesn't end there. A video from Syria, too, went viral on social media platforms, where users linked it to the unrest in Manipur.

Online Misinformation Leading to Real, Offline Harm

In a complaint accessed by The Quint, which was registered on 18 May at Saikul Police Station, the head of the B Phainom village – a Kuki majority area – said that at least 800-1,000 men from the Meitei community had barged into their village with ammunition and allegedly burnt houses down. 

During this raid, five villagers – three women and two men – ran into a nearby forest to escape before being rescued by police personnel from the Nongpok Sekmai police station. However, they were apprehended by a mob of mostly Meitei men, forcing the three women to strip before parading them naked.

The complainant claimed that one of the three women, aged 21, was brutally gangraped, while her 56-year-old father and 19-year-old brother were both killed.

The men screamed, "We will do to you what your men did to our women," according to The Print.

This happened even after DGP P Doungel had clarified that there were no rape cases in Churachandpur.

In a statement to the press on 19 July, Superintendent of Police (SP) K Meghachandra Singh said that "a case of abduction, gangrape and murder was registered at Nongpok Sekmai PS (Thoubal district) against unknown armed miscreants."

One person was arrested in the incident on Thursday, 20 July, nearly 78 days after it occurred and two months after an FIR was filed.


Why Did These Instances Not Come to Light Earlier?

Given that the ethnic violence has gone on for over two months, this is one question that arises in people's minds. As researcher Srinivas Kodali explains in a tweet, the delay was due to the internet shutdowns in the state.

"Black out of communications is not allowing people to see the scale of violence," he tweeted. 

The state government ordered a shutdown of both broadband and mobile internet services on 3 May, which has not only affected the flow of information in and out of the state, but also impacted education and livelihoods.

Some parts of the state regained access to internet services on 20 June after an order by the Manipur High Court directed the state government to do so.

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Topics:  manipur   Members Only   Manipur violence 

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