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India's Modi says Manipur violence 'can never be forgiven'

July 20, 2023

A video circulating on social media, which showed two women paraded naked on the streets after allegedly being gang raped, has received mass condemnation in India.

Women holding Indian national and United Nations' flags take part in a demonstation demanding for the restoration of peace in Manipur state
Women took to the street to protest against violence in India's north-eastern Manipur stateImage: -/AFP

The Supreme Court of India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Thursday, condemned the gruesome assault on two women in the northeastern state of Manipur, amid ongoing violence between two ethnic groups

"Any civil society should be ashamed by it," Modi said ahead of a parliamentary session.

"The guilty will not be spared. What has happened to the daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven," Modi told reporters.

He urged heads of state governments to ensure the safety of women and said the incident is "shameful for any civilized nation."

"My heart is filled with pain and anger," he added.

His comments come after the European Parliament urged him to protect minorities in India and act against the violence in Manipur.

India's top court also directed both central and local governments to take immediate steps against the violence.

"We are very deeply disturbed about the videos distributed yesterday. We are expressing our deep concern. It is time that the government steps and takes action. This is unacceptable," New Delhi Television reported the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud saying. 

He also asked the governments to apprise the court of the situation. 

"We are of the view that court must be apprised of the steps taken by the government so that perpetrators are booked for such violence. What is portrayed in the media and visuals which appeared show gross constitutional violation," the chief justice said. 

India: Ethnic violence in Manipur shows no sign of ending

What do we know about the incident?

Several videos surfaced on social media showing two women from the Kuki tribe who were allegedly dragged into a field, gang-raped, and paraded naked on the street by a mob.

The Manipur police took after the video surfaced and made their first arrest on Thursday morning, Chief Minister Biren Singh said on Twitter, without specifying how many people were arrested.

"A thorough investigation is currently underway and we will ensure strict action is taken against all the perpetrators, including considering the possibility of capital punishment. Let it be known, there is absolutely no place for such heinous acts in our society," Singh said. 

Ethnic violence continues in Manipur

The state of Manipur, especially its capital Imphal, has been in chaos for nearly two months as violence between the majority Meitei community and the minority Kuki tribe continues to flare up. 

Deadly clashes broke out after the Meiteis demanded to be recognized as a "scheduled tribe." Under India's constitution, this status unlocks economic benefits, political powers, and quotas in government jobs and education. 

The Kuki tribe, in turn, has demanded the resignation of the chief minister.

Hundreds of homes, shops, churches, and other buildings have been burned by angry mobs in the ensuing violence, leaving thousands homeless. More than 100 people have died in the clashes since May. 

mk/sms (Reuters, AP)