"They hit me with the butt of a gun near my eyes thrice and after that, I became unconscious. I don’t know what happened then... Then, they sprayed some water from a bottle on me, and I regained my consciousness," a teenage rape survivor narrated to The Quint in a relief camp in conflict-torn Manipur.
As the people of India and the world come to terms with the barbarity of what they saw in the viral video from Manipur showing two sexually assaulted women being paraded naked by a mob, this is the story of an 18-year-old woman from Churachandpur who was allegedly raped after they beat her unconscious.
She alleged that she does not remember what happened while she was unconscious but medical reports confirm "assault and rape."
The survivor claims that she managed to escape her attackers, and was rescued by a Muslim Pangal autorickshaw driver, who took her to Bishnupur police station. The Quint contacted the police station regarding the same. They, however, replied that "there is no report of her coming to Bishnupur Police Station."
Additionally, on 21 July, a zero FIR was filed against "unknown miscreants and Meira Paibes" over the alleged abduction and assault. The charges include sections 354 (outraging a woman's modesty), 307 (attempt to murder), 364 (kidnap), 376 (gang rape), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and relevant sections of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
It is important to note that the FIR states, among other things, she was taken to Bishnupur Police Station by her Pangal driver on the day of the assault. But a report in The Hindu citing the FIR says that she did not trust the police thinking that they were Meiteis.
What follows is the survivor's account, as narrated to The Quint.
I have a friend who's married to a Muslim. I stayed with them [after the violence broke out in Manipur] in Hatta, Checkon, thinking that this issue will not last long. I received a call from my family, and they told me that the unrest could last longer than expected. I started looking for people to accompany me back home on the morning of 16 May.
This incident happened on 15 May. I went to withdraw money sent by my friends from an ATM booth in Imphal. Two vehicles approached me. One stopped ahead of me, and the other behind me. One was a purple and the other was a white Bolero. I thought they also wanted to go to the ATM. They asked me for my Aadhaar card. I told them that I didn’t have it with me.
They took me to a locality called Wangkhei area, they called other men and women there. They decided that only women will lay their hands on me and they started beating me, shouting that their women were also beaten this way. They had caught me around 5 pm and continued to beat me till dawn. All the women who came there laid their hands on me.
Then, they discussed among themselves that if they continued to hit me by the roadside, the police might come and rescue me. So, they took me to a secluded area and hit me there.
After that, they called some men dressed in black T-shirts. They were carrying arms, knives, and ropes – and came in white Boleros in groups of 7-8. I was handed over to them. They insisted that I should be killed. And if they were not going to kill me, then they would do it themselves.
They took me from Wangkhei to Langol. They blindfolded my eyes, tied my hands, and kept me ready to be shot. Then, one guy said that the police station was nearby, and the sound of the gunshot would alert them, and people will start gathering. So, he proposed to take me to some other place.
They then drove me towards Bishnupur. They were then trying to figure out if I should be killed before reaching Lamka and thrown in such a way that my own people find my dead body. They took me to a hilltop in Bishnupur... we crossed Ngariyan Ching and Heinang Ching...They kept beating me as though I was a man. I asked if a man should lay his hands on a woman. To this, they said I talked a lot and hit me on my chin and ears so much that they started bleeding.
They had decided to molest me first before killing me. I asked whether they had no brothers and sisters. To which they shut me up and hit me again. Then I heard them load their gun. They shot once or maybe twice in a different direction to frighten me. They then pointed the guns at me. A few of them poked the barrel of their guns against me in my front, back, and head. They hit me with the butt of a gun near my eyes thrice and after that, I became unconscious. I don’t know what happened then...Then, they sprayed some water from a bottle on me, and I regained consciousness.
I asked to be excused for urinating. One of them untied only my hands and I took a few steps ahead and rolled down the hill in Bishnupur. I somehow reached the main road. There, I saw an auto. The driver happened to be a Pangal Muslim. He was a vegetable transporter who ferried vegetables early in the morning. He hid me among the sacks of vegetables.
The people who’d caught me thought that I would not be able to run away very far from them, and so, they continued to chase me and continued to shoot towards me. We drove inside the Bishnupur police station. There, 3 policemen [village defence force or VDF] came out and asked me if that vehicle was the one chasing me, to which I said yes. They stopped the vehicle and the people in the vehicle said that they were just members of a club. I objected to it and told them that they had arms and weapons inside.
[In an emailed response to The Quint, Bishnupur Police has denied any record of the survivor arriving at the station.]
Then we got into the auto. I didn’t even have the strength to climb, so my driver helped me and dropped me where my mom told me that some of our own people will still be there, so I should contact them. Upon reaching there, some girls on duty saw me but couldn’t dare to look at my condition.
On 18 May, I got a call from someone in Kangpokpi, and he helped me get there and took me straight to a doctor. The doctor examined my eyes and ears, and prescribed medicines, saying it could be something serious.
[The hospital in Kangpokpi referred the survivor to another hospital in Nagaland. The discharge slip (accessed by The Quint) signed by the medical officer of the Naga Hospital Authority, Kohima on 24 May, confirms "assault and rape on 15 May 2023 during the Manipur tribal clash."]
After my check-up, I stayed in a relief camp in Saparmeina village. Some leaders and pastors visited me, and they too couldn’t see my weak and pathetic condition. I was also administered a glucose drip. I found it very difficult to sip water or eat anything due to the unbearable pain in my neck because of strangling. I was on glucose, and always in my bed.
But my condition worsened...They said that it was because of my young age that I was finding it difficult to recuperate from my injuries.
Every time I closed my eyes, I saw the faces of the people who molested me even though I’d seen them just once. When I get very frightened at night, I call my parents and tell them that I keep seeing the people who hurt me, they kept chasing me to kill me.