Video Editor: Prajjwal Kumar
The North American Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA) had written to the National Commission for Women (NCW), seeking attention to the sexual violence against Kuki-Zo women, one whole month before the distressing video of two women being paraded naked went viral on social media on 19 July.
But no action was taken, Florence Nianghoihlun Lowe (née Gwite), who heads NAMTA, told The Quint.
"I am an Indian-American citizen. This is not the India that I grew up in. I call on all the right-minded Hindus, Muslims, and Christians to reject this idea of India. This is not the India that I proudly defend to my American friends."Florence Nianghoihlun Lowe told The Quint
"As women, for us to talk about things like this and not be believed, for a video to be shown to the world, it is extremely distressing, as you can imagine," Florence said.
Born in Imphal, Manipur, Florence is a tech entrepreneur who moved to the United States in the 1990s. She, along with other members of her community in the US, formed the NAMTA between 4 and 5 May, just a few hours after ethnic violence broke out in Manipur.
Florence and her family were also personally impacted by the unrest – with her parents' home in Manipur completely burned down.
"My father is an IPS officer, but this did not stop [people] from attacking my house. My mother still has nightmares. She understands that if not for the grace of god or luck, they could also have been one of these women that we saw in the video. My niece is 13 years old. She ran. My sister in law is this short, mighty woman...She is 33 years old. Each one of us could have been these women."Florence Nianghoihlun Lowe told The Quint
'World Is Finally Paying Attention, but It's Not Enough'
"We are happy that the world is now paying attention. But we are also very distressed because we have been describing these things that have happened in words, in letters, in tweets, to anyone that we can go to. It really feels like we're going from pillar to pillar, from door to door – and no one wants to listen," Florence told The Quint.
While Florence says that members of the NAMTA struggled to get their voices heard, one community stood by them – the Indian-American diaspora.
"I cannot tell you how heartening it is for us, who have been directly affected, to ... have people reach out to us. You know, we have not had the time, energy, mental, or physical to reach out to anyone. FIACoNA, Federation of Indian American Christians of North America, the Hindus for Human Rights organisation reached out to us. Indian American Muslim Council have also reached out to us."
"The Dalit and Adivasi organisation – as you understand we are Adivasis as well, it's just that's the Hindi name for tribals – the Kerala Christians, the Telugu Christians, American friends who have nothing to do with any of this, they have called, the Congress people," Florence added.
'Manipur Govt Complicit, Need Int'l Community To Speak Up'
The Manipur government has not done anything, she alleged, calling it "complicit in this matter." This is why it is important for the international community to speak up, she says.
"Because if you ask them, they say there is no issue and they are only now starting to talk about this. We really need the international community to speak up and states to speak up. Because the US is a charter member of the UN Security Council, they have signed the UNHCR pledge, and they do business with the entire world."
This is not a time to ask for resignation or peace talks, Florence said, adding that the global communities must not let the matter escalate.
"Because if we stand by and let something like this happen to a small group of people in a world where Russia and Ukraine are fighting... every small conflict could become a larger global conflagration. Let's not have this happen," she added.