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'Dismiss Manipur CM': 5500 citizens seek urgent justice to victims and survivors

Counterview Desk 

More than 5500+ activists, academics, artists, bureaucrats and ordinary citizens have demand justice for the women in Manipur belonging to the predominantly Christian minority Kuki Zo and other communities who have been brutally assaulted.
“Outraged” by the viral video of “unbelievable brutality” on the Kuki women of Kangpokpi district”, it wonders why the Chief Minister of Manipur the Prime Minister spoke only after more than 75 days of “deafening” silence.
Insisting that when the chief minister of a state confesses on national television to hundreds of rapes and incidents of sexual assault on his watch, it is time for him to go, it says, "He has lost the moral right to govern."
Condemning suppression of truth, it asserts, “When a fact-finding team of women’s rights activists visited Manipur in the end of June 2023 and reported that several women had experienced sexual violence, instead of investigating and acting against the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes against women, the Manipur state and police filed FIRs against it.”
The civil rights groups which have signed the letter include Saheli Women’s Resource Centre, National Federation of Indian Women, National Alliance of People’s Movements, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, Mahiti Adhikar Manch, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, among others.
International rights groups which have endorsed the letter are the Indian Labour Solidarity (UK), Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance (UK), North American Manipur Tribal Association(USA), International Council of Indian Muslims (USA), East Indian Defense Committee (Canada), and the Internacionalista (Brazil).
Eminent academics, activists and other eminent personalities which have signed the letter include Annie Raja, Aruna Roy, Arundhati Dhuru, Manjula Pradeep, Nisha Biswas, Kavita Krishnan, Lamtinthang Haokip, Paul Thongkhomang Touthang, Ruth Manorama, Uma Chakravarti, Nivedita Menon, Nemthianngai Guite, Vineeta Bal, Anand Patwardhan and Maya Krishna Rao.

Text:

We, the undersigned, are outraged that it takes a viral video of unbelievable brutality on the Kuki women of Kangpokpi district for the Chief Minister of Manipur to Act; and for the Prime Minister of India to speak after more than 75 days of deafening silence.
When the Chief Minister of a state confesses on national television to “hundreds” of rapes and incidents of sexual assault on his watch, it is time for him to go. 100s of rapes, assault, murders would include every section of the population. Rather than shutting down the internet, the government needs to investigate every crime, irrespective of community or faith. It is the civilian population that is unarmed, which is most affected. Biren Singh has lost the moral right to govern. His words to a TV anchor are an unprecedented, shocking and brazen confession by a ruling Chief Minister that he knew for months about the scale of sexual violence and mob assaults being unleashed against women in Manipur. And he did nothing, except cover them up by banning the internet to stop information about this horrific truth from getting out!
The CM and government of Manipur have encouraged Meitei supremacist violence and its language of xenophobic hatred; Meitei-chauvinist militant groups like Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun have been given free rein to indulge in hate-speech, and instigate, organise and carry out targeted violence against the predominantly Christian minority Kuki-Zo community. This atrocity against Kuki women is a product of this politically patronised politics of hatred. Every day that Biren Singh continues to remain CM, the danger to the Kuki-Zo communities, and especially the women only increases. Every day he continues in power, the affront to all women in India only grows! We demand his immediate dismissal.

We rage against the impunity of the mob

The video that went viral on social media on 20 July 2023 shows an incident of 4 May 2023, in Kangpokpi district of Manipur, in which two Kuki women are seen paraded naked and groped by a mob of Meitei men. A survivor has recounted that they were told, “If you don’t take off your clothes, we will kill you.” Of the three, the youngest, a 21-year-old woman, was gang-raped. Her 56-year-old father and 19-year-old brother were killed. This incident took place as five people of the Kuki community fled their village to escape a murderous mob. The FIR states that the assailants were armed with sophisticated weapons like AK Rifles, SLR. INSAS and .303 Rifles: proof that the state government has outsourced violence to mobs of the dominant community, in the on-going violence in Manipur.
The images on the video have shaken all of India, as it has shaken each of us. It speaks volumes about the nature of this crime. Stripping and parading of women publicly is an attempt to strip the victims and their communities of their dignity and humanity. This form of sexual violence is a hate crime meant to assert social and political dominance over the community to which victims belong; that the perpetrators looked at the camera and filmed their crime as a trophy, tells us how much impunity they enjoy in Manipur. We demand an end to this impunity for violence against women.

We rage against the silence of elected officials

Every woman in this country is shaken that it took a viral video to get our leaders to open their mouths about such egregious violence going on, day after day, against women. Given that the CM of Manipur knew about it, the Home Minister would have known, the Prime Minister would have known. The fact is that the survivors of the assault in the video have been speaking up from the very beginning. In at least 5 other cases of sexual violence, survivors or victim’s kin have spoken and given testimonies to citizens and journalists; these have appeared in international, national and regional news publications. There are documented testimonies of two Kuki-Zo mothers about the rape and murder of their daughters by a Meitei mob; the murder of a woman whose body was found shot, burnt, and dismembered; and the abduction, rape and brutal thrashing of an 18-year-old woman, who narrowly escaped being killed. But no elected officials, either in Manipur or at the Centre spoke a word.
In mid-June 2023, 5500+ concerned citizens on Manipur issued a statement asking for accounts of sexual violence to be investigated. A fact-finding team of women’s rights activists visited Manipur in the end of June 2023 and reported that several women had experienced sexual violence. Instead of investigating and acting against the perpetrators of crimes against women, the Manipur state and police filed FIRs against the Fact-Finding team itself, accusing it of working against the interests of the state and the nation.
Governor Anusuiya Uikey, instead of helping heal wounds, has only fueled xenophobia by suggesting that Kukis are infiltrators
How many such cases of brutal violence have taken place? How will justice be ensured in the face of obvious State complicity in the crimes and the cover up?
Every institution of India has failed women. The National Commission for Women, the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes – none of them have found it fit, after more than 2 months of violence, to visit the state and investigate these crimes against the women of Manipur. The Governor of Manipur, Anusuiya Uikey, instead of helping heal wounds, has only fueled xenophobia by suggesting that “infiltrators” (implying Kukis are not Indian, but terrorists from across the border) are to be blamed for the on-going violence in Manipur.
Women of all communities - Kuki, Meitei, Naga or any other, from all faiths - have been affected by this violence. And, we stand with each victim, and each survivor.

We demand:

  • The immediate dismissal of N Biren Singh from the post of Chief Minister of Manipur
  • The State must ensure social, emotional, physical and economic rehabilitation of the survivors, dignity, privacy and security from further harassment and violence. The survivors must be provided all legal assistance and enabled to pursue justice for what they have suffered.
  • Immediate arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators involved in all the incidents of violence against women, including those identified and reported by the survivors. Strict action against erring police officers for their acts of complicity and enabling of violence against women, their gross negligence and failure in preventing these grave crimes against humanity.
  • Supreme Court of India to set up an Independent Enquiry Committee to examine the scale of violence against women, and seeks its intervention and monitoring to ensure the implementation of rule of law in Manipur.
  • Fact finding, solidarity and enquiry teams by citizens, activists and civil society must be allowed to visit Manipur and help document these crimes, without fear of state reprisal or police cases.
  • Restore internet in the state and end the internet/media blackout.

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