The bone-chilling video of two women, stripped naked and dragged to a paddy field by a group of armed men in Manipur, not only shook the collective conscience of the nation, but also brought to fore the sexual atrocities women had to face during the ethnic clashes that have been going on in the state from May 3. Women from both warring communities—Meitei and Kuki—have alleged that they were subjected to sexual assaults of all kinds by the men belonging to the other side.
While the Meiteis have not yet come up with any number of sexual crimes committed to the women of their community, a press statement by a group of Kuki organisations, released on July 23, claims that seven women of their tribe were raped during the nearly three-month-long ethnic clashes.
Two incidents of rape, in fact, got significant media attention. The first is related to the viral video. One of the two women, seen in the video, was allegedly gang-raped by the mob on May 4. The complaint was filed on May 18 at Saikul Police station, and accordingly, a zero FIR—No (91)(5)2023—was filed. Subsequently, the case was transferred to Nongpok Sekmai under which jurisdiction the incident happened and FIR No 110(06)2023 was registered.
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The copies of the FIRs available in public domain mentions Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deals with rape charges. But when Manipur Police shared the summary of FIRs and crimes with security agencies, Section 376 went missing even though other sections remained intact.
On the same day of this incident, two other Kuki girls were reportedly gangraped and murdered by unknown miscreants in a car wash centre at Konung Mamang locality in Imphal East district. Accordingly, an FIR—No 0(65)(5)2023—was registered in Saikul Police Station on May 16. Interestingly, even though the FIR says that the girls were “brutally murdered after being raped”, the case was not registered under Section 376 of IPC.
In fact, if the summary of all the FIRs shared with security agencies are examined, no rape took place in Manipur during the ethnic clashes as Section 376 is not mentioned in any of the FIR. Chief Minister N. Biren Singh though admits to one incident of rape.
In an exclusive interview with India Today NE, the chief minister claimed that the rape of one of the girls seen in the viral video was the only incident of rape reported in 6,068 FIRs filed since May 3. “One of the girls seen in the leaked video was raped. That’s the only FIR on rape among all 6,068 cases,” said Biren Singh.
On being questioned about the allegations of rape in the car wash centre at Konung Mamang, the chief minister said that forensic reports confirmed that the girls in the car wash centre were not raped. “It’s unfortunate that the two young girls lost their lives to mindless violence, but forensic reports confirm that they were not raped,” Biren Singh told India Today NE.
The parents of the two girls, however, dismiss the chief minister’s assertion saying that they don’t trust the Biren Singh-led BJP government in Manipur. “We demand that forensics are conducted either in a different state or by experts from other states in Manipur,” said the mother of one of the victims and father of the other. The families of the two victims have not yet received their bodies, even though the incident took place on May 4 and FIR was registered on May 16.
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