Outrage sparks as India police face scrutiny for parading women naked

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The role of the police in a ghastly incident that occurred in Manipur state, India, where two women were brutally paraded naked by a mob of men, is under intense scrutiny. The incident, which took place on May 4, came to global attention after a video of the horrifying act went viral on Wednesday, prompting widespread condemnation.

In response to the incident, the police have opened a case of gang rape and arrested four men, with assurances of more arrests to follow. However, criticism has arisen over the delayed police action, as a complaint had been lodged just days after the incident occurred, and many of the men involved were clearly identifiable in the footage.

An alarming detail has emerged from the written complaint, which the BBC obtained a copy of, filed by a relative of one of the women. The complaint alleges that the mob took the survivors from police custody, and two of the survivors have accused the police of being present during the incident but failing to intervene and offer help.

Though the police have not denied these accusations, certain media reports have cited unnamed police officials claiming they were “outnumbered” during the incident. Speaking anonymously, a senior government official revealed that the Manipur police had received over 6,000 complaints related to violence since May 3, and the delay in addressing this particular case might be attributed to the relatively small size of the police force. Additionally, the official suggested that if the government had received the video earlier, the accused individuals would have been apprehended sooner.

The BBC has attempted to reach out to the Manipur police, sending questions and trying to establish contact over the phone, but they have not responded as of now.

According to the complaint, the survivors, aged 21 and 42, were part of a group of five individuals attempting to escape violent ethnic clashes that had been ongoing for over two months in Manipur state, bordering Myanmar. The clashes involved members of the Meitei and Kuki tribal communities, leading to complete segregation and resulting in the loss of at least 130 lives and displacing 60,000 people. The women in the video are from the Kuki tribe and were assaulted by men from the Meitei tribe.

The harrowing attack on the women occurred in the early days of the conflict when they were fleeing their village, which had been attacked and set on fire by a large mob of approximately 800 to 1,000 men, many of them armed. They claimed to have been rescued by the police initially but were subsequently taken by the violent mob and subjected to the horrific ordeal of being forced to strip.

The complaint further states that two men accompanying the women were killed, and the 21-year-old survivor was brutally gang-raped in broad daylight. A third woman, not seen in the video, was also forced to strip, according to the account.

The distressing footage, which showed the women in tears, in pain, and begging for mercy from their attackers, circulated widely on social media, sparking anger and condemnation. Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud expressed deep concern, and the Supreme Court warned the government of taking action if necessary. Meanwhile, the parliament witnessed disruptions for two consecutive days as opposition lawmakers demanded a debate on the issue.

The widespread outrage forced the government to respond, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally broke his silence on the matter. He described the incident as a shameful act that has tarnished India’s reputation and promised that the guilty parties would face justice. Manipur Chief Minister Biren Singh also issued a statement, welcoming the first arrest and demanding capital punishment for those involved.

Despite these responses, critics of the government argue that the fact that the first arrests were made more than two months after the incident was reported to the police raises doubts about the authorities’ efficiency and commitment to addressing such crimes.

Furthermore, local Kuki tribal and women’s organizations have alleged that several other women have been raped in the state, listing numerous other heinous crimes against women. However, the BBC has not been able to independently verify these additional allegations at this time. The incident has drawn significant attention to the need for swift and effective action in addressing violence against women and upholding justice in India.

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