Rape And Sexual Violence In The Indian State Of Manipur

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(ANALYSIS) In November 2023, British media reported on the use of sexual violence in the recent wave of violence in Manipur, India. This follows a conflict that erupted in May 2023, described by the U.N. as a “community conflict between the predominantly Hindu Meitei and the predominantly Christian Kuki ethnic communities.”

As they added, “By mid-August 2023, an estimated 160 persons had reportedly been killed, mostly from the Kuki ethnic community, and over 300 injured. The conflict also reportedly resulted in tens of thousands of people from the communities being displaced, thousands of homes and hundreds of churches being burnt down, as well the destruction of farmland, loss of crops and loss of livelihood.”

However, it did not stop there. According to the BBC report, two women were allegedly stripped, paraded naked and gang raped by a mob in northeast India. Subsequently, their ordeal was made public in a viral video.

One of the women is reported to say: “I was treated like an animal. It was hard enough to live with that trauma, but then two months later when the video of the attack went viral, I almost lost all hope to continue living.” The second woman added: “I find it hard to face other people, even in my own community. My pride is gone. I will never be the same again.” After the attack, both women had to flee their towns and now live in hiding.

More similar stories are likely to come to light. Indeed, in August 2023, U.N. experts wrote to India in relation to the situation in Manipur and asked for urgent responses. In a few of their identified cases, “a group of drunk Meitei men and boys, some as young as 15 years old, allegedly dragged a woman and a teenage girl and raped them. … women were reportedly attacked at their place of work by a mob that was targeting Kuki women. These women were reportedly locked in a room and subjected to physical violence for two hours, and were later found dead.”

They further added:

“Women and girls have reportedly been attacked in their homes, dragged in the street, tortured or severely beaten before being raped and killed. One victim was allegedly hacked to death. In some of these cases, the bodies of the victims are yet to be found or recuperated. Reportedly, corpses of dead women have also been burnt by their assailants as part of the attack (as they had not followed the proper burial rites associated with each of the two communities).”

As for now, the situation has not received enough international attention, and governments shy away from engaging on the issue. In response to the concerns raised by U.N. experts, the government of India, in a letter dated Oct. 25, responded“:

“Recognizing the need for a highly skilled and well-equipped investigative agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to effectively apprehend and prosecute the offenders, the State Government recommended the transfer of 27 cases, including those involving heinous crimes against women and children, to the CBI, which was accepted. … The Government of India has also appointed a Commission on Enquiry headed by a retired Chief Justice of the High Court, to inquire, inter alia, the causes and spread of violence. Through this inquiry, the sequence of events leading to and all the facts relating to large-scale violence will be brought out besides identifying those responsible for the violence.”

Another important issue raised by U.N. experts concerns misinformation and incitement to violence, which accompanied the deteriorating situation in Manipur. As they pointed out:

“Violence has been incited by campaigns of disinformation, which have been used by the perpetrators to justify the atrocities against Kuki women. … Furthermore, some government officials of Manipur were reportedly involved in the disinformation campaigns against the Kuki ethnic minority community and particularly against women. Hate speech allegedly aimed at inciting violence and genocide against the Kuki ethnic minority community reportedly spread online and offline. Reportedly, one of the of the slogans made against the Kuki who were being attacked was ‘Haomacha Hatlo’ which translates into ‘kill smelly tribal children.’ They reportedly warned of a possible civil war, where the Kuki community would not be able to defend themselves and would be wiped out.”

These instances of misinformation, hate speech and incitement to violence are highly concerning, especially as some of them go along the lines of genocidal incitement. All such reports must be urgently investigated and investigated against the risk factors and early warning signs of genocide and other atrocity crimes.

The next months will see whether the inquiry established by the government of India can deliver this work. If not, international responses, including through the U.N., should be considered, such as an International Commission of Inquiry.

This piece was republished from Forbes with permission.





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