Watch Nidhi Razdan: The video from Manipur that sparked outrage and demands for accountability Video Credit: YouTUbe

I am outraged, and you should be too. Since early May, the state of Manipur in India has been on fire, as violence between different ethnic groups- the Kukis and the Meiteis- has claimed over 140 lives and lead to an almost total break down of law and order in the north eastern state.

For months, the government’s top ministers, including the Prime Minister, remained silent as Manipur burnt. It took a huge backlash on social media to finally break their silence. Mr. Modi said the guilty would not be spared.

The outrage is over a video which shows two Kuki women being paraded naked and sexually assaulted in Manipur. The incident reportedly happened on the 4th of May and the police registered an FIR on the 18th of that month.

According to the case details, there were around 1000 men, some carrying weapons, who snatched 5 women from the custody of the police and assaulted them. With the state under an extended internet shutdown, the video only emerged on Wednesday.

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Shock all over

One of the victims spoke to ‘The Indian Express’ and claimed the police left them to mob which is seen groping them on the video. In the police complaint that was filed later, the victims also alleged that one of them, the youngest woman in her 20s, was “brutally gang raped in broad daylight”. When her brother and father tried to save her, they were allegedly killed by the mob.

The details of what these women went through are horrifying to the core. But what is even more outrageous is the so called “action” the Chief Minister Biren Singh and the Manipur police are claiming to have taken. As the social media outrage spread, suddenly Mr. Singh tweeted that his “heart went out to the two women” and that immediately after the video surfaced, the police “swung into action” and made their first arrest.

This is absolutely shocking. How does the Chief Minister explain why the police did not act until now and arrest anyone even though they themselves had filed an FIR way back in May. It took a viral video for them to react and take action 78 days after the incident? Do they care only about social media anger?

And what does it say about the Chief Minister who claims he did not know that a thousand strong mob had assaulted these women in his own state until the video came out! Mr. Biren Singh told ‘India Today TV’ he only got to know about this when the video surfaced. He also goes on to say there have been “hundreds of such cases”. Huh? What? That’s even worse! What did you do about those incidents then Mr Chief Minister?

Members of the 'Chennai Manipuri community' hold a peace demonstration to protest in solidarity with the people of India’s northeastern state of Manipur amid ethnic violence, in Chennai on July 9, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Supreme Court of India intervenes

What a sorry state of affairs. It goes without saying that Biren Singh should have resigned a long time ago. Now, he should be sacked. And what about India’s Women and Child Development Minister, Smriti Irani. She also broke her silence on Thursday calling the incident “downright inhuman”. Her silence all this time, like with the wrestler protests and Bilkis Bano, has been criminal.

The horror of Manipur and this video in particular prompted the Supreme Court led by the Chief Justice of India to speak up on Thursday. India’s Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said, “it’s time that the government really steps in and takes action because this is simply unacceptable. Using women as an instrument in an area of communal strife for inflicting gender violence is deeply, deeply, disturbing and simply unacceptable to the court. It is the grossest of constitutional and human rights violations …. We will give a little time to the government to act. Otherwise, we will take action if nothing is happening on the ground. We are conscious of the fact that the video which appeared yesterday is from May but that makes no difference …. It doesn’t have to be a video of yesterday. It’s very very deeply disturbing”.

Everyone has failed Manipur. The government, the police, the media (with some incredible exceptions) and all of us who have watched with apathy as the state lurched from one crisis to the next. The excuse of the “tyranny of distance” does not cut it anymore. Prime time TV debates have barely discussed the situation in Manipur all these months.

Shame on these so called TV news channels. The hollowness of the mainstream TV media has been laid bare. They should have sent reporters long ago to uncover stories like this, to hold the government to account.

We are a country that saw BJP ministers in the then Jammu and Kashmir government hold rallies in support of men accused of the rape and murder of a little girl in Kathua; a country where the convicted rapists of Bilkis Bano were freed and then garlanded when they came out; a country where even now social media trolls are indulging in whatabouthary covering up for Manipur. We should all hang our heads in shame.