Manipur Violence Ground Report: 'Strip or Die,' Survivors Recount Harrowing Tales of Compliance & Brutality

The viral video footage shows two women, but there was another woman in her 50s who was also coerced by the mob to remove her clothes.
The Imphal rape victims
The Imphal rape victims

Churachandpur— In Manipur, a series of horrific incidents occurred on May 4th, leaving the entire nation in shock. Three women were gang-raped, two were murdered, and two were paraded naked in separate incidents, exposing the severe brutality against women in the region. The Mooknayak delved into the heart-wrenching stories of these victims to shed light on their unimaginable pain.

The violence unfolded on the same day, with one case occurring in Kangpokpi district and another in Imphal district. A young woman around 21 years old, along with two others aged about 40 and 50, were forcibly stripped naked in Kangpokpi. The 21-year-old woman was subjected to a brutal gang-rape. A zero FIR was initially filed in Kangpokpi district and later transferred to the relevant police station in Thoubal. In the Imphal city incident, two young women aged 21 and 24 were gang-raped and then murdered. Shockingly, it took days for a proper FIR to be registered after the victims' mother lodged a complaint.

The mother of one of the victims had lodged a complaint at Saikul police station on May 5, but the police registered an FIR on May 16. Remarkably, Manipur's Chief Minister N Biren Singh responded to queries regarding the case by asserting that out of over 6,000 FIRs lodged throughout the state, only one rape case was recorded.

The pitiable condition of inmates in a relief camp
The pitiable condition of inmates in a relief campSatyaPrakash Bharti, The Mooknayak

Details as per the FIR

Manipur had been grappling with ethnic tensions following clashes between Maitei and Kuki communities on May 3. As stated in the FIR, on May 4 at approximately 3 pm, a large group of 800-1,000 individuals forcefully entered village, B. Phenom, located in the Kangpokpi district. They were armed with a variety of weapons, including AK-47s, SLRs, INSAS rifles, and more, even possessing modern firearms like 303 rifles. The intruders proceeded to vandalize homes, pillage furniture, electronics, utensils, clothing, and cash. Furthermore, they set houses ablaze. Suspicion points towards the attackers being associated with various groups, including the Maitei Youth Organisation, Maitei Lipun, Kangleipak Kanba Lup, Arambai Tenggol, Vishwa Maitei Parishad, and Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee. The incident involved a group of five individuals from the village who desperately fled towards the forest to ensure their safety, consisting of two men and three women, with three of them being from the same family.

There is scarcity of food and basic necessities in relief camps for the Kuki people, inmates complain.
There is scarcity of food and basic necessities in relief camps for the Kuki people, inmates complain. SatyaPrakash Bharti, The Mooknayak

Among the group fleeing to the forest were a 56-year-old man, his 19-year-old son, and 21-year-old daughter. Additionally, two other women, aged 42 and 52, were part of this group. However, their escape was thwarted by a violent mob near Tubu, about two kilometers from the Nongpok Sekamai police station. Subsequently, they were apprehended by the police. Tragically, the mob swiftly killed the 56-year-old man. The three women were then subjected to a horrifying ordeal where they were forced to strip naked in front of the crowd. The 21-year-old woman was brutally gang-raped in broad daylight. Shockingly, the mob also killed the younger brother of the 21-year-old victim when he attempted to intervene. Luckily, two other women managed to escape with the help of local acquaintances and are currently in relief camps. The video footage shows two women, but there was another woman in her 50s who was also coerced by the mob to remove her clothes.

Speaking to The Mooknayak, one of the victims, a 40-year-old woman, recounted the events saying, "When we heard that a Maitei mob was setting houses on fire in a nearby village, our family and others fled. However, we were captured by the mob." She went on to share how their neighbors and her son were taken away and killed, followed by the mob's assault on the women, demanding that they disrobe.

Numerous families find shelter in a partitioned single-room setup at Churachandpur, repurposing a boys' hostel into a relief facility.
Numerous families find shelter in a partitioned single-room setup at Churachandpur, repurposing a boys' hostel into a relief facility.Satya Prakash Bharti, The Mooknayak

The victim further stated, "We resisted, pleading for mercy, but they threatened to kill us if we didn't comply. Fearing for my life, I took off my clothes to protect myself. During this time, the men from the mob physically attacked me. I was unaware of what was happening to my 21-year-old neighbor, as she was a bit further away."

Detailing her experience, she added, "I was dragged to a paddy field near the road and ordered to lie down by the men. I complied and laid down. Three individuals encircled me. Among them, one suggested that they rape me, although they ultimately refrained from doing so. Thankfully, I escaped rape, but they still touched me inappropriately."

The 21-year-old victim recounted the presence of Manipur police at the scene, expressing her disappointment that they did not provide assistance. Four policemen were present during the violent incident, yet they remained inside their car, merely observing the horrors unfold. They did not intervene to help the victims.

Following the incident, the video of the naked parade went viral after being reported by the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF). The ITLF formally complained to various authorities including the state and central governments, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, and the National Commission for Women.

Identifications and Arrests Follow Manipur Tragedy

In the aftermath of the tragedy, a total of 14 individuals have been identified from the viral video that circulated. Out of these, seven have been apprehended by the police and taken into custody.

Police Personnel Suspended

The head of the Nongpok Sekamai police station in Thoubal district, along with four other officers, have been suspended in connection with the May 4 incident that occurred in Kangpokpi. This decision was officially announced by a police representative on August 6th.

CBI Takes Over

Responding to the Home Ministry's directive, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken action. An FIR (First Information Report) has been lodged in relation to the sexual harassment and violence suffered by two women in Manipur. The CBI's FIR encompasses various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) such as 153A, 398, 427, 436, 448, 302, 354, 364, 326, 376, and 34, along with section 25(1-C)A of the Arms Act. The investigation into the matter is currently underway.

Mob Rape, Kill and Dump bodies of 2 girls in Imphal

The second incident in Manipur occurred in Imphal city on May 4th. In this tragic event, two women aged 21 and 24, who hailed from the same village and worked as car washers in Imphal, were allegedly abducted, gang-raped, and murdered. Their bodies were then dumped on the road by a mob. Following the incident, one of the victim's mothers lodged a complaint at Saikul police station on May 5th. However, the police only registered an FIR on May 16th.

Providing details of the incident, the victim's mother shared her account with The Mooknayak team. "Before the tragedy, my daughter used to wash cars to support her siblings. She lived in a rented accommodation with another woman from our village. The violence erupted a day prior, and I couldn't get in touch with my daughter. As the violence escalated, I grew increasingly worried and kept calling her repeatedly. However, she did not answer the calls. Subsequently, a Maitei woman answered the phone and callously asked me whether I wanted my daughter to be alive or dead. Then, she abruptly disconnected the call. Later, we learned that both of them had been murdered. Upon receiving the news of my daughter's demise, our village was attacked, and our homes were set ablaze. Forced to flee to the forest, my family sought refuge in a relief camp."

The victims worked as car washers here.
The victims worked as car washers here.

When asked about how she came to know about the events leading to her daughter's death, the victim's mother stated that she only received limited information initially. Inquiring about the actions taken after registering the case related to the incident, she expressed her frustration, saying, "We have not received any information regarding the case from the police or any other official." She emphasized that her daughter's body has yet to be recovered, and she holds onto hope for her daughter's return.

Story Translated by Geetha Sunil Pillai

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