Sun. May 26th, 2024

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has broken his silence on the deadly ethnic clashes that have engulfed Manipur state in the country’s northeast for over two months. Speaking to reporters before a parliamentary session, Modi expressed his outrage over a disturbing video that emerged showing a mob assaulting two women who were paraded naked. The incident has triggered massive public outrage and condemnation.

The viral video, which surfaced despite internet restrictions and limited media access in the remote state, depicts a horrifying scene of two naked women surrounded by a group of young men. The women were subjected to groping and dragged to a field while the mob assaulted them.

“The guilty will not be spared. What has happened to the daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven,” Prime Minister Modi asserted, urging state governments to prioritize the safety and security of women. He further emphasized that such acts are “shameful for any civilized nation” and expressed his personal anguish and anger over the violence.

The ethnic violence in Manipur has escalated to near-civil war proportions, resulting in the deaths of over 130 people since May. Mobs have rampaged through villages, killing people, and setting houses on fire. The clashes were ignited by an affirmative action controversy involving the Christian Kukis and the mostly Hindu Meiteis, as the former protested against the latter’s demand for special status that would enable land purchase in the hills inhabited by Kukis and other tribal groups, along with government job opportunities.

Despite the presence of the Indian army in Manipur, the violence has persisted, and the state, with a population of 3.7 million, is now divided into two ethnic zones. Both factions have formed armed militias, and isolated villages continue to experience gunfire, leading to the displacement of over 60,000 people who sought refuge in crowded relief camps.

The assault on the two women in the viral video occurred on May 4, one day after the violence erupted in the state. The police complaint, filed on May 18, accuses “unknown miscreants” of rape and murder during an attack on the women’s family, resulting in the deaths of two male members. Manipur’s Chief Minister Biren Singh confirmed the first arrest in the case, without providing details about the number of apprehended individuals.

Chief Minister Singh assured the public that a thorough investigation was underway and pledged strict action against all perpetrators, with the possibility of considering capital punishment. In response to the incident, India’s Supreme Court expressed its concern and demanded the government to report on the measures taken to apprehend the accused.

The two women in the video, belonging to the Kuki-Zo community, are now safe in a refugee camp, according to the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum, a tribal organization in Manipur. India’s Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani also condemned the incident, assuring that investigations were ongoing, and all efforts would be made to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Amidst growing public outcry, opposition parties and rights activists have demanded that Prime Minister Modi address the Manipur conflict in Parliament. The main opposition Congress party president, Mallikarjun Kharge, accused Modi’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of turning democracy and the rule of law into “mobocracy,” urging the Prime Minister not to stay silent on the matter.

Last week, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on Indian authorities to intervene and halt the violence in Manipur, specifically emphasizing the protection of religious minorities, including Christians. In response, India’s foreign ministry labeled the resolution as “interference” in the country’s internal affairs, drawing attention to the issue on the international stage.

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