The video of two Kuki-Zo women being paraded naked and their private parts touched by humans-turned-monsters is a chilling account of what has been allowed to happen in Manipur under the watch of both the Central and the state governments that are seemingly unmoved by this saga of brutality against hapless women.
A statement by the Manipur Police says that FIRs have been filed against unknown armed miscreants who committed the heinous crime.
Are the armed miscreants unknown when their faces and their ignominious deeds were clearly visible? Is this what policing has come to? It's almost as if the perpetrators of the crime want to deliver a death blow to the hopes of the Kuki-Zo community of ever returning to their indigenous habitat.
No less than the European Parliament passed a resolution against the atrocities inflicted on the Kuki-Zo community since 3 May – when violence first erupted in Churachandpur.
A violence that can last this long with gun battles happening on a daily basis can only mean one of two things – either the state has failed miserably or the violence has been allowed to happen with the intent of driving out the last of the tribals from the hills of Manipur.
And what better justification than to label all the Kuki-Zo people with one broad sweep of ‘illegal migrants.” How convenient for the government of Manipur, which is now seen as the eternally vigilant Leviathan guarding the frontiers of Bharat on behalf of the 1.4 billion population – a majority of which does not even know what Manipur is and where it is located on the map.
Why is the Prime Minister Unmoved?
In this sordid saga of revenge and retaliation that has reached a despicable low, there is only so much that pen-pushers like this one can do to shake the souls of fellow Indians out of the complacency that distance lends, and to ask them if they too can feel the searing pain of this scourge that’s visiting their sisters in a part of their own country.
What is happening in Manipur is so wrong substantively and morally but what’s chilling is the cynicism of the top man running the country – Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Why is he unmoved by all these brutally inhuman acts perpetrated by mindless bigots in a state presided over by a venomously partisan chief minister?
Manipur is in a state of precipitous decline, yet the Centre continues to look the other way. It has now made even the neighbouring states wonder if this model of vote bank politics – where the polity is viciously polarised – will be allowed to play out there as well.
Relentless Trauma for the Kuki-Zo People
The security forces in Manipur are virtually fighting a losing battle because they cannot break through the human shields that prevent them from enforcing the law and arresting lawbreakers.
The situation is such that the law-breaking brigade in the Imphal valley has attained the status of defenders of their community pride against the much-maligned ‘illegal migrants’ from Myanmar; the poppy growers; the drug lords who don’t belong to Manipur. What a convenient narrative to camouflage the greed for land in the hills which they have been eyeing for decades, but which their non-tribal status has become a hindrance since, under Article 371C, non-tribals cannot buy land in the designated tribal habitat.
In an evolving ecosystem, land reforms are a vital part of the process of governance – and the key element of governance is to establish a rule of law where justice prevails.
If land is a hugely contested issue in Manipur and is also linked to the survival of the group, then settling that matter should have been the brief of governments past and present. Was it necessary to allow the unleashing of such hatred and outrage on the streets for 77 days?
In fact, every single day the people of Manipur (and this needs emphasis – it’s the Kuki-Zo people) have been waking up to a new outrage. They now exist in a relentless and rolling trauma wondering what’s the new level of debauchery they must witness. Just think of how it feels to live in such a traumatic situation.
Regressing Into the Depths of Barbarism
Watching the scene playing out in Manipur every single day informs us that Chief Minister Biren Singh is directed by a blinding egotism of pitting his own people – the Meiteis who he feels have a right to the entire physical landscape called Manipur – against those he has repeatedly termed as miscreants and interlopers from Myanmar. Today, what is in full display in Manipur is the lynch-mob mentality where the extraordinary cruelties of ordinary people have become a common sight.
Manipur has been blacked out by the internet shutdown which again is partial in that the powerful ruling elite have had access to it all the while. It’s the hoi polloi that have had to suffer the ignominy of not even being able to tell the stories of the unspeakable atrocities that have visited them over these 77 days in what can best be described as a civil war.
The barbaric acts of parading women naked and then raping them and of killing the young village volunteer and hanging his head on a pole are tales of cruelties that one had heard of in a best-forgotten past.
But to witness such cruelties, and perhaps many more that are yet to unfold on account of the internet embargo in the 21st century, tells us that humans can regress into the depths of barbarism even today.
It only takes a provocative narrative to be created around an issue for the worst human emotions to come spilling out. Indeed, what we have seen in Manipur is the weaponisation of words which feed into the cycle of unending violence.
The fact that the violence has sustained for over two months and is soon reaching the third month in another 13 days means that the aggressors have been well prepared. It takes preparation and training to keep the fires alive for so long. Extremist outfits in the valley were seen to have been in a state of preparedness. Hence, the violence in Manipur is neither sudden nor ill-conceived. It’s a well-laid plan that’s executed with precision. No wonder the Modi government is an apathetic onlooker.
(The writer is the Editor of The Shillong Times and former member of NSAB. She can be reached at @meipat. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)