A viral video from the state of Manipur, showing dozens of men parading and assaulting two women who have been stripped naked, has triggered outrage in the country. The 26-second video shows the group of men – some appearing to be as young as 15 – groping and sexually attacking the women belonging to the ethnic Kuki-Zo tribe, and escorting them towards an empty field. The footage showing the women weeping, wincing in pain and begging their attackers to show some mercy is disturbing to watch. At least one of the women, aged 21, was gang raped, according to the first information report (FIR) filed by the survivors on May 4, a day after deadly ethnic riots broke out between the mainly Hindu Meitei and predominantly Christian Kuki-Zo tribes. The fact that the first arrest has been made only now, more than two months after the attack was reported to police, is shocking and does not inspire confidence in the authorities of Manipur.
The horrific and shameful act has not only inflicted pain and trauma to the two victims, their families, relatives and friends, but has also shocked the conscience of the entire nation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has kept quiet about the Manipur violence has finally broke his silence by terming the parading and sexual assault on the two women as shameful for the 140 crore people of the country. The Supreme Court which has taken suo moto cognizance of the disturbing viral video also sought an action taken report from the Centre and Manipur government by July 28. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and comprising Justices P S Narasimha and Manoj Misra, told the Solicitor General of India that the apex court will be constrained to “step in” if the government does not take action.
The incident would have gone unreported if not for Twitter. Immediately, the Central government directed Twitter to remove the video. Without Twitter, the truth would have never come out. It was the video which forced Modi to speak for the first time on the Manipur situation. In the light of the admitted inaction of the Manipur Police in the 79 days since the incident occurred, no fair investigation can be expected from the Manipur Police. Even the statement by Manipur Chief Minister Biren Singh is merely to assuage the outrage expressed across the country against the savage incident. It is unfortunate that sexual assault was used as instruments of violence in the ongoing communal conflict in Manipur. Faith in the rule of law has collapsed because of the inaction on this particular savage incident and other crimes committed during the Manipur violence. This kind of heinous act cannot be tolerated in Indian society. Strict action should be taken against the culprits. There should be no place in India for individuals involved in such a despicable criminal act.