Manipur-Incident: “Naked” Exposure of its Supporters! 

Manipur Rape
by Angela Ferrão

If the video about atrocious and disgusting sexual assault of women in Manipur had not gone viral, the entire country and the rest of world would certainly not have reacted against this incident in a strongly aggressive manner as it is at present. Think again. Till the 30-second video did not go viral, though Manipur crisis was being given coverage in national and international media, comparatively, the opinion about it was a little milder. Flames of conflict and violence have been raging in this state for more than two months. One video has literally shaken the whole world to what the state’s citizens, particularly women are facing. Besides, clearly, this forces one to deliberate on how many more similar incidents have probably occurred in this state. The question is not simply of ethnic conflict between two communities, Kuki vs Meitei, but of the level to which warring parties can fall down to, not caring for what does this reflect of them. The worst part is that of women being abused. By resorting to these moves, the alleged criminals and their probable supporters have certainly discarded whatever they donned, including mask as well as image of any respectability they may have had.

But as indicated earlier, there is no knowing of how many women have been abused in this manner with their being no proof of their having gone through this ordeal. That the video, reportedly recorded on May 4, has taken more than two months to become viral also raises the question as to what is probably responsible for this delay. Fear or some other reason.

Nevertheless, the harsh reality of more women in Manipur gradually expressing their also having been sexually assaulted may be viewed as a naked reflection of pathetic state of law and order as well as perhaps limited authority being exercised by the state government and higher authorities. Opinions are being expressed about those in authority having probably turned a blind eye to these atrocious incidents. And they may have continued to do so if the video had not gone viral. In all probability, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may also not have described the incident as “shameful” and that his heart was filled with “grief and anger,” if the video had no impact. “What happened with daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven,” he said, emphasizing that “law will take its course with all its might.”

Irrespective of the “course” that law takes, the fact that this was the first time Modi expressed his stand regarding Manipur has been fairly strongly taken note of by his rival politicians as well as media- national and international. Now, if the video had not gone viral and had there not been a strong reaction, critical of what happened in Manipur, it is possible, he may have still refrained from commenting on it. He voiced his comments on July 20. Though crisis in Manipur is being quite regularly covered by national and international media, prior to the video having gone viral, the reaction had not raised such a storm in national and international circles. One may say, though opinion about Indian media being subject to political pressure, commercial and other factors certainly has some validity, there is another side to it. Storm raised over the Manipur incident definitely suggests that Indian media or at least several outlets of it still retain some democratic credibility and freedom.

If Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government did not hold power in Manipur, party-stalwarts would have probably aggressively criticized whatever is happening in the state from day one. And this demands attention on another angle. Despite BJP in power there, what has led the situation reach this stage? Manipur is not a huge state. The state covers an area of 22,327 sq. km (8620.5 miles) with a population of around 32 lakhs (3.2 million). India’s population in 142 crore (1420 million). Manipur’s population is not even a percentage of country’s total population. With its own party holding reins of state government, continuance of Manipur crisis and atrocities against women could have probably been checked and not allowed to reach this stage. Here, strategy of deliberately inciting and keeping various communities engaged in conflict may be backed by certain political interests. This can only be reflected upon. In this context, strategy of provoking communal conflict in other parts of the country, particularly for electoral reasons, has been exercised quite often.

Irrespective of whatever explanations are given, whoever and whatever authorities are held responsible for continuance of Manipur crisis and sexual assault of women, alleged criminals have not simply disgraced themselves. Those who turned a blind eye to these happenings apparently acted as silent participants perhaps due to some pressure. Whatever be reasons, they and their supporters have not just been shamed/disgraced but have also slipped dismally on their own terrain, politically and socially!

Nilofar Suhrawardy is a senior journalist and writer with specialization in communication studies and nuclear diplomacy. She has come out with several books. These include:– Modi’s Victory, A Lesson for the Congress…? (2019); Arab Spring, Not Just a Mirage! (2019), Image and Substance, Modi’s First Year in Office (2015) and Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp, In the Name of Indian Secularism (2006).

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