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Police failed to protect women from mob in India’s Manipur – report

A video of two women being paraded naked and sexually assaulted triggered international outrage last year

Police failed to protect women who were assaulted by a mob in Manipur, India in May 2023, when violent ethnic clashes broke out in the state, a charge sheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) revealed, according to a report in the Indian Express.

The document cited by the newspaper says the two women and one man had sought refuge inside a police jeep parked beside the road. However, the driver refused to take them to safety, claiming there was “no key.” The mob forcibly removed them from the vehicle and started assaulting them, while the police left the area. 

The head of the Manipur police told the newspaper that “departmental action” has been taken against the officers, adding that any further action would be taken by the federal investigators who are probing the case. 

The investigation was initiated last year after a video of two women being dragged naked in the street and sexually assaulted by a large mob of men went viral in July 2023 – three months after it was actually shot. 

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Members of Christian organizations hold solidarity prayer meet for restoration of peace in Manipur after the recent ethnic violence, at a school in Guwahati on June 24, 2023. Biju BORO / AFP
Outrage in India over video of molested and naked women paraded in Manipur

According to the police complaint filed by the victims after the incident, there was another woman (not seen in the video) who was forced to take off her clothes by the mob. The complaint also alleged that one of the women was “brutally gang raped in broad daylight,” media reported in July last year. One of the victims told a news portal that the police were present at the site but did not help them. 

The charge sheet cited by the Indian Express was filed against seven people, including one juvenile, before a court in Guwahati, Assam in October last year. They are charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including those pertaining to gang rape, murder, and outraging the modesty of a woman. 

The video of women being paraded naked drew nationwide outrage, with political leaders, public figures, and human rights activists in India and abroad demanding action. It also prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to comment on violence in Manipur for the first time. He vowed that “not even a single culprit will be spared.”

The state government also promised strict action against the perpetrators, including the possibility of capital punishment for those who committed rape. Subsequently, the case was transferred to the CBI – the federal crime investigating agency. 

READ MORE: Modi promises peace to the northeast, makes pitch for progress

Manipur has been engulfed in violence, stemming from a dispute between the majority Meitei community dwelling in the interior plains of the state and the Kuki-Zomi tribes dwelling in the surrounding hills.

Clashes in the remote state have left more than 200 dead and displaced tens of thousands. Manipur’s chief minister, N Biren Singh, claimed in a recent interview that normalcy has returned to the state. He said that Modi’s administration has encouraged talks with leaders of the disgruntled Kuki tribe, which is demanding a separately administered region within the state. However, incidents of violence continue to be reported in the state.

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May 01, 2024 at 11:56AM

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