Manipur Cauldron: Amid national outrage, PM Modi calls sexual assault on women shameful, promises action

Breaking his silence on the unabated ethnic violence in Manipur, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday expressed "shame" over an incident in the restive northeastern state where a video of two women being paraded naked on May 4 surfaced on Wednesday.

PM Modi mentions the Manipur violence ahead of the Parliament session, breaking his long silence on the issue. Photo courtesy: PIB

A purported video of the incident that took place in the troubled Thoubal district has gone viral since Wednesday, triggering national outrage and  prompting the Manipur police to file a case and launch a manhunt for the culprits. Union Home Minister Amit Shah also spoke to state Chief Minister N Biren Singh on the issue.

"As I stand next to this temple of democracy, my heart is filled with pain and anger. The Manipur incident is shameful for any civilised nation. The entire country has been shamed,” PM Modi said in his remarks before the start of the monsoon session of parliament.

“I want to assure the nation, no guilty will be spared. Action will be taken according to the law. What happened to the daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven."

Referring to similar incidents in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Modi appealed to all chief ministers to strengthen laws to take stringent action against crime, especially against women.

“The incident might be from Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, or Manipur, the culprit should not go scot-free in any corner of the country,” PM Modi said.

Supreme Court demands action

The Supreme Court on Thursday took suo motu cognisance of the "deeply disturbing"  video from Manipur.

"Use of women as an instrument of violence in a charged atmosphere is completely unacceptable", a bench of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chadrachud said and granted one week time to the state and Central governments to give details about what steps have been taken.

The CJI said, "The government should really step in and take action. It's simply unacceptable. It's deeply disturbing. Grossest of constitutional and human rights violations."

Promising appropriate and strict action, including a possible capital punishment, against all those involved in the "deeply disrespectful and inhumane act”, the Manipur Chief Minister said one person has already been arrested.

“My heart goes out to the two women who were subjected to a deeply disrespectful and inhumane act, as shown in the distressing video that surfaced yesterday. After taking a Suo-motu cognisance of the incident immediately after the video surfaced, the Manipur Police swung to action and made the first arrest this morning,” N Biren said in a statement.

He said a thorough investigation was underway.  “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.”   

Meanwhile, police have registered a case of abduction, gang rape and murder at Nongpok Sekmai police station of Thoubal district.

Manipur has been on the boil for over two-and-a-half months following clashes between the Kuki and the Meitei tribes.

 The disturbances erupted on May 3 in the Churachandpur district and engulfed other places soon, as multiple incidents of arson and killing were reported the next day on May 4.

The continuing violence has taken a toll of 100 lives and displaced 6000 people. At least 3000 houses have been burnt.

Opposition slams Modi govt. 

Meanwhile, the Indian opposition has slammed the Modi regime over the spiralling Manipur violence. 

Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) working President and Telangana Minister K T Rama Rao (KTR)  said the Union Government has been watching in absolute silence the horrifying violence in Manipur.

KTR tweeted, "We Indians were raging against the Taliban when they were disrespecting children and women."

"Now in our own country, Kuki women being paraded naked and sexually assaulted by the Meitei mob in Manipur is a distressing and nauseous reminder of how barbarism has been normalised in new India !!," he posted.