Manipur Sexual Assault: 5th accused arrested

Indian police arrested a fifth accused in connection with the video that surfaced on July 19 showing two women being paraded naked by a mob and sexually assaulted in the country’s strife-torn Manipur.

The four who were earlier nabbed for disrobing and parading two women in Manipur on May 4 were remanded to 11-day police custody on Friday, police said.

Several Naga civil society organisations in Manipur, including the powerful United Naga Council (UNC), All Naga Students’ Association Manipur (ANSAM) and Naga People’s Front, have strongly condemned the defiling of the two Kuki tribe women by a mob on May 4.

The UNC asked the Manipur government to take up the case in a fast-track court to deliver justice instantly.

“The government must initiate necessary steps for immediate booking of all the people involved in such dehumanizing crime,” the UNC said in a statement.

Violence erupted in the northeastern state of Manipur between the mainly Christian Kuki and the predominantly Hindu Meitei in May over job quotas and land rights, and intermittent clashes have continued since.

The emergence of footage of the women’s humiliation — which happened in May — triggered outrage across the country, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying it had “shamed India”.

Police arrested four suspects Thursday, and the same day a group of women activists threw stacks of hay into the house of one of the men in Imphal and set it on fire.

As the fire raged, the women — from the Meitei community, like the accused — broke down the walls and roof of the house with sticks.

On Friday, another mob of women destroyed the house of a second accused, reducing it to ash and bars, photographs showed.

“Can normal people do these things?… Even cats, dogs, animal(s) never committed these kind of filthy act,” said one demonstrator near Imphal, where hundreds of women gathered to protest.

“This is not even how human beings treat other human,” she said.

India’s Supreme Court warned Modi’s government Thursday that if it does not act, “we will”.

Authorities in Manipur, led by the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said police had taken action as soon as the video surfaced on social media.

A “thorough investigation” was under way, the state’s chief minister N. Biren Singh tweeted Thursday.

“We will ensure strict action is taken against all the perpetrators, including considering the possibility of capital punishment,” he added.

The Manipur violence came after the Kuki community protested Meitei demands for reserved public job quotas and college admissions as a form of affirmative action, stoking long-held fears that they might also be allowed to acquire land in areas currently reserved for tribal groups.

Homes and churches were torched, with tens of thousands of people fleeing to government-run camps.

In a detailed report to the Supreme Court in June, civil society group Manipur Tribal Forum said many gruesome acts of violence, including rape and beheading, had not been investigated by state authorities.

Footage of one such incident was shared on Twitter Thursday, reportedly showing an aide to a BJP lawmaker in the state holding a victim’s severed head, before it disappeared from the platform within hours.

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