Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi led BJP-NDA alliance prepares to face opposition queries on violence stricken Manipur following a no confidence motion that was tabled by Congress MP from Assam, Gaurav Gogoi, fake news, rumours and fault lines seem to emerge into what triggered the sexual assault of Kuki Zo women on 4 May.

Manipur, now the centre of national attention, has historically been known to have held the women in the various indigenous communities on a pedestal. North eastern states in India are known to prcatice  amore matriarchal social functioning, unlike the rest of India. Then what triggered the sexual harassment of women as the Hindu majority Meitei community and Christian minority Kuki Zo came to war like situation for fight of constitutional rights? 

Let’s understand 

Security observers and analysts, along with residents of Manipur, especially the famous Meira Peibis, or torch-bearers – also known as the mothers of Manipur. have cited the incidents to rumours. 

Rumours that Meitei women were sexually harassed and killed led to a mob fury further triggering a series of horrific sexual harassment cases throughout the state- this time the victims and targets were Kuki Zo women. 

Why did the mob act the way it did, in a society that regards its women highly?

Upon being asked by BBC, Sinam Surnalata Leima, who leads the Meira Peibis in a group of villages where the two Kuki women in the video were attacked, said, “It was grief and revenge for the Meitei women who had been attacked by Kuki men“. 

Notably, Leima personally does not know of any such attacks. 

The famously matriarchal society of Manipur did not resort to community division when it came to punishing the perpetrators. 

According to the Leima, as reported by BBC, “villagers themselves handed over the main suspect to police.” A total of six people from the viral video has been arrested till now including a juvenile. 

Then Meira Peibis got together and burned one of the accused’s house. reports have also suggested that the wife and children of the Meitei man who was first accused has been banned from the village. 

“The burning is a symbol of the community’s condemnation of the heinous crime that those men committed, their actions cannot tarnish the whole Meitei community’s honour,” said Leima.

Onto the barrage of rumours that triggered sexual harassment of women in a matriarchal society, the report reveals that the Manipur police had never received a complaint of any Meitei women being attacked. 

However a member of the Meitei community told BBC, there had been many unreported attacks. Khuraijam Athouba, who represents a Meitei organisation called Cocomi, said that Meitei women had chosen not to speak about the “violations they faced”.

In his view the focus should remain on the issue of killings and displaced people, rather than sexual violence, reports BBC

The report further talks about Kuki women who were dragged out of their abode by an enraged mob. Nineteen-year-old Chiin Sianching and a friend were singled out for belonging to the Kuki community, she informed BBC, and attacked in the hostel they lived in while studying nursing in the state capital, Imphal.

“The mob kept banging the door of the room we were hiding in, shouting that your men have raped our women, now we will do the same to you,” she said.

She called her mother to say that it could be the last time that she would speak to her. Minutes later the two young women were dragged out on to the street and beaten unconscious – Sianching thinks the mob thought they were dead, so ran away.

Police who found their bodies only realised they were alive after checking their pulses.

The media outlet recounts fake news on social media, purporting to show women being sexually assaulted by Kuki men were fuelling this mob of Meitei men against Chiin and her friend.

Early in the conflict a photo of a dead woman was circulated, apparently showing a Meitei nurse who had been raped and killed by Kuki men. Later, many news outlets debunked this.


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Updated: 26 Jul 2023, 05:43 PM IST

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