What is the politics behind suppressing the Manipur sexual assault video for 75 days?

By Neha Bhardwaj July 23, 2023 1:04 PM IST

Two women were stripped naked and paraded in a paddy field by a group of armed men in Manipur. According to reports, on the same day, two more tribal women were allegedly gangraped and murdered in the northeastern state. Politics has intensified after this whole incident. 

In the case of the video of the naked parade of two women, information suggests that the horrific incident took place on May 4 in Kangpokpi district of the state. A day after this ethnic conflict started between Meitei and Kuki communities.  

The Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum, an organization of various tribes living in Manipur, claims that the victims in the video are from the Kuki-Jo tribe, while the mob that sexually assaulted them belonged to the Meitei community.

While the incident took place on May 4, the video of the heinous crime surfaced on July 19, just a day before the monsoon session of Parliament began. In Manipur N. Sources close to the Biren Singh-led BJP government have raised doubts about the timing of the release of the video. The name of the village where this incident happened was B. Fanom is. This  Hirok comes under the assembly constituency. It is represented by BJP MLA Thokchom Radheshyam Singh. Thokchom Radheshyam Singh is also a retired IPS officer.  Following the incident, Radhey Shyam on Thursday resigned from the post of advisor to Chief Minister N Biren Singh. 

According to a news report in India Today, this in no way makes Radheshyam responsible for the May 4 incident with women in Kangpokpi and the subsequent release of the video, but it is surprising that such a video has remained secret. 

How did this video stay out of the public eye for 75 days?

Tell that B. Where this incident happened in Fanom village, there is a settlement of about 40 families. After the incident B. Thangboi Vaifei, the 65-year-old headman of Phanom village, lodged a complaint about the incident at Saikul police station on May 18. 

A local news portal ‘Hills Journal’ had published a news on June 4 about this incident and the subsequent complaint of the village head. Despite this, the Manipur police took more than a month to register the FIR.  

Chief Minister Biren Singh said ‘Many FIRs have been registered regarding murder, arson and even sexual harassment in the last two months and the police teams are overburdened. The first arrest was made within 24 hours of the video appearing on social media’.

According to a news published in India Today, a top Manipur police officer says that we did not have any video to identify the accused. The investigation progressed at a slow pace given the tense situation in the state.

The state’s cyber police branch is now reportedly investigating the source of the video, but unofficial accounts suggest that the video may have been released by some Meitei political leaders belonging to both the ruling party and the opposition. 

The question still remains that how was the video kept hidden for so long? According to people tracking the case, even though one of the perpetrators recorded the video, it was not shared for two reasons—women’s watchdog groups known as Mira Paibis have banned sharing of these videos. Second, the internet has been suspended in Kangpokpi, a Kuki-dominated area.

What is Mira Pubis?

The women associated with Meera Pabis in Manipur are Meitei women. They do not have any political leanings, but they become active when the state or society faces any crisis. This group of women holds a lot of moral and social influence among the Meitei community.

While Manipur has a long history of women’s activism. Mira Pabis is active since 1977. That year, the women of Manipuri society together raised their voice against the increasing alcohol and drug abuse in the state. In 1980 a large group of women marched to a police station and forced the administration to release a man who had been detained on suspicion of sedition. 

After this, women across the state started night vigil with burning torches. Mira Pabis gradually shifted her focus from human rights violations by the armed forces to the demands for Inner Line Permit (ILP). This group started working as the most influential watchdog group of Manipuri society.

What is the role of Meera Paibis in the ongoing caste conflict in Manipur 

According to the news published in India Today, Meera Paibis has allegedly played the role of a facilitator during the caste conflict going on for the last two months. The Indian Army also claims that recently this group of women (about 1,200 women) stopped an Indian Army convoy at Itham village in Imphal East district and forced the release of a dozen hardline militants of Kanglei Yavol Kanna Lup (KYKL).

Kanglei Yavol Kanna Lup is a banned militant group. Who ambushed the convoy of Dogra Regiment of the army in 2015 in Manipur. 20 soldiers were martyred in this attack. 

According to the news, since the beginning of violence in Manipur in May, many senior officials are claiming that these women of Meera Paibi group are taking to the streets. They are restricting the movement of armed forces and also helping miscreants to destroy targeted villages. At the same time they are careful not to bring bad name to their community ". 

According to the news published in India Today, a Meitei social media activist says, ‘On many occasions Meera Paibis has also stopped youths from shooting such videos, which can misrepresent the community. It is being shown in the viral video that  Except the victims, no other woman was present during the incident. But I am sure the women of Meera Paibi in the area tried to ensure that the video did not go ahead. The absence of internet helped in doing this work.

According to the news, another person claims that this incident was surprising for Meera Pabis as well. Meera Paibis sternly warned men not to share the video.  In an interview, the victims have also claimed that ‘they were not raped, but were stripped and touched.  Some Meitei men helped them to escape. The complaint mentions that some unknown persons helped them to escape.

Sources say that despite efforts to stop the video, this video reached top politicians. These leaders waited for the right moment to use the video for their political advantage. The video was leaked by some Meitei political leaders to Kuki groups just a day before the Parliament session.

According to reports, a source associated with the Central Intelligence Department claims that  BJP government at the center  Biren Singh is in no mood to be removed from the post of CM, so this video was used by his rivals as a kind of missile to topple the government.

Let us tell you that on the whole matter Union Minister Smriti Irani said on Saturday, "This (Manipur viral video) issue is not only sensitive but also questionable regarding national security. Opposition leaders were aware of this. 

Questions were also raised on the Chief Minister

After the developments in Manipur, news also came that Chief Minister N. Biren Singh is about to resign. According to news agency ANI, he went out to submit his resignation but some of his supporters blocked his way.  On the other hand, the opposition is continuously alleging that the Prime Minister is keeping silence on this issue. The opposition is demanding the resignation of Chief Minister N Biren Singh.

What is the reason for the violence in Manipur 

Please inform that the ongoing violence in Manipur has been going on for 3 months  have happened.  The reason for the violence is to give tribal status to the Meitei community. The Kuki community said that Meitei is a powerful community, it should not get the status of a tribe. In this regard On May 3, All Tribal Students Union of Manipur called ‘Tribal Solidarity March’. During this violence broke out. Now even after months this part is still smoldering. Internet is banned.