Since yesterday, there’s been shock and horror over a viral video from Manipur, showing two Kuki women being paraded naked by a mob. The women were sexually assaulted; one of them was allegedly gangraped.
While this happened on May 4, the video went viral only yesterday. The reactions were swift. Prime Minister Modi made his on the Manipur violence, the it would take action if the government did not, and the National Commission of Women took suo motu cognisance of the case.
However, the NCW had been sent a complaint on the very same issue 38 days before, on June 12. The complainants never received a response or an acknowledgement.
The complaint had been filed by two Manipuri women and a Manipur tribal association headquartered abroad. The complainants, whom we are not identifying in this report, had spoken to the survivors and then emailed NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma.
Newslaundry accessed a copy of the complaint. It was emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
The complaint clearly stated that on May 4, two women from a village in Kangpokpi district were “disrobed, paraded naked, beaten and then encircled by a marauding Meitei mob and raped in public”.
The letter made an “earnest appeal” to the NCW to “urgently assess the disproportionate victimization of Kuki-Zomi indigenous tribal women through brutal and inhumane acts of sexual violence, including rape, kidnapping, public lynching, immolation and murder”.
It cited other instances of rape, sexual assault and murder being used “as a weapon of conflict” against Kuki-Zo women, noting there was “numbing silence and underreporting” of the same. Newslaundry has not mentioned in this report the locations where these incidents took place.
“Witness accounts reveal the most harrowing and distressing details, including the incrimination of Meitei women vigilantes as enablers and perpetrators of gender-based violence. Victims and survivors allege that Meitei women vigilantes have actively participated in the attacks and assaults on Kuki-Zomi women and children,” the complaint alleged.
It added: “Several Kuki-Zomi women have been forced to flee for their lives during advanced stages of pregnancy or while recuperating from C-section surgeries. Some have given birth in ad hoc refugee camps…”
On May 3 at a university, the complaint alleged female students were “forced out of their hostels, verbally harassed and abused by the mob”. One student allegedly heard the mob shouting “kill Kuki women” while she was hiding in the bathroom; the complaint said “Assam Rifles rescued” the students at 3.15 am.
On May 4, a 22-year-old student of a nursing institute in the state was “harassed and assaulted by a Meitei mob of about 40 people”. “‘Rape her! Torture her! Cut her into pieces!’ Meitei women shouted as the attackers pummelled [name], knocking out her front teeth.”
On May 5, the complaint said, two women in their twenties were “raped and murdered” after “Meitei miscreants gagged, dragged and confined the women in a closed room for two hours”. On May 6, a 45-year-old widow was “brutally butchered, shot and burned by Meitei mobs”.
The complaint also alleged that a 15-year-old girl had been kidnapped and a medical examination report “confirmed assault and rape”.
The complaint said these examples underlined the “serious gravity of gender-based violence, appalling levels of womens’ rights violations, and continued threats to the physical safety and psychological well-being of Kuki-Zomi women”.
It said: “Therefore, we humbly and urgently request you to take suo motu cognizance of the matter and if possible, constitute an Inquiry Committee. We have faith in the Constitution of India and the enormous power that the National Commission for Women exercises to create a just world where the rights of all Indian women are respected, realised, and valued, even in times of conflict and war.”
The letter also urged the NCW to consider extending assistance to victims and survivors in the form of crisis counselling and trauma therapy.
The complainants received no response or any form of acknowledgement from the NCW.
Nearly a month later, the video of one of the instances they wrote about went viral on social media – and only then did the NCW tweet its response.
“They didn’t even acknowledge the complaint,” one of the complainants said. “Everything was explicitly mentioned as the other complainant has spoken to the survivors and victims of sexual assaults in the conflict. We have clearly mentioned about the incident where women were paraded naked and raped.”
At that point, the complainant said she didn’t know there was a video of what had happened.
“But regardless of that, we have mentioned in the letter that there are evidence of sexual violence and crime happening against Kuki-Zo women,” she said. “I had also attached a bunch of news articles so that NCW would know and at least would be convinced that I am not making up stuff. This incident along with other incidents was clearly mentioned as a bullet point.”
Rekha Sharma did not respond to Newslaundry’s phone calls. We emailed her a questionnaire. This report will be updated if she responds.