The US State Department says it is deeply concerned by reports of a viral video showing two women paraded naked in the northeastern state.
The United States says it is deeply concerned by reports of a viral video showing two women paraded naked in India’s northeastern state of Manipur, a sexual assault case that enraged the country.
The assault, in which a mob allegedly gang-raped and paraded naked the tribal women, took place more than two months ago after ethnic clashes between two communities broke out in the remote state.
But the assault captured national and global attention after the video went viral on social media last week, forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his public silence over Manipur violence.
Police made some arrests after Modi, in a 30-second address outside parliament on Thursday, condemned the assault as “shameful” and promised tough action.
Manipur is governed by Modi’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
A US State Department spokesperson called the Manipur incident “brutal” and “terrible” and said the US conveyed its sympathies to the victims.
The US encouraged a peaceful and inclusive resolution to the Manipur violence and urged authorities to respond to humanitarian needs while protecting all groups, homes and places of worship, the State Department spokesperson said.
The sexual assault was reported by the victims – aged 21 and 42 – in May during intense ethnic clashes between the tribal Kuki-Zo, who are mainly Christian, and the mainly Hindu Meiteis over potential changes to economic benefits given to the Kuki-Zo and other tribal groups in Manipur.
The special status under the Scheduled Tribe category would let the majority Meiteis buy land in the hills populated by the Kuki-Zo and other tribal groups, as well as a guaranteed share of government jobs.
New Delhi rushed thousands of paramilitary and army troops to the state of 3.2 million people to quell the violence. But sporadic riots and killings continue and the state has remained tense since early May.
At least 130 people have been killed and more than 50,000 have fled their homes since the violence erupted in Manipur on May 3.
Thousands of people, mostly women, held a large sit-in in Manipur’s Churachandpur, a town 65km (40 miles) south of the state capital, Imphal, on Saturday to demand the immediate arrest of anyone who took part in the harrowing assault of two women on May 4.
The leaders of religious and women’s groups addressed the nearly 15,000 protesters, who also called for the firing of Chief Minister N Biren Singh of the BJP.
Protesters assembled at a “Wall of Remembrance” site in an open ground in Churachandpur, a stronghold of the Kuki-Zo tribe, where they kept dummy coffins of people from their minority community who have been killed in the violence.
Ngaineikim, the chairperson of the Kuki Women’s Organization for Human Rights, accused Singh, who is a Meiti, of orchestrating atrocities and then expressing sympathy for the victims.
Nearly 400 men and women also held a protest in the Indian capital, New Delhi, with similar demands. They carried placards reading “We demand action against the perpetrators” and “Resign, Biren Singh”.