A statement issued by various women’s organizations, students’ organizations, workers’ union, and other people’s organizations and democratic individuals of West Bengal.
Restore Peace in Manipur Immediately!
Justice to Brutally Assaulted Manipuri Women!
Sack Chief Minister N Biren Shah Singh!
Sack Home Minister Amit Shah!
We, like every woman of this country, are shocked that it took a horrendous video of unbelievable brutality in which two Kuki women are seen publicly paraded naked, groped and sexual assaulted by a cheering mob of Meitei men in Kangpokpi district for the slumbering Chief Minister of Manipur to act and the Prime Minister of India to speak. Every autonomous institution formed to guard basic human rights in general and that of women, minorities and of historically oppressed sections have completely failed women in general and those of Manipur in particular. Photo of the charred body of a 45-year-old mother of two, allegedly being disrobed and burnt alive too has surfaced. More and more such horrific incidents of violence are surfacing.
Time and again women’s bodies become sites of battlefield in conflict areas through the violence unleashed by security and para-military forces as well as in territorial struggle and struggles for self-determination. Women need restoration of their rights of citizenship and not kinship being claimed as mother or sisters or daughters. We reject outright the statement made by the Prime Minister that what happened with daughters of Manipur can’t be forgiven. These are but crocodile tears after 79 days of silence.
It is not that the State or Central Government (double engine sarkar) was not aware of the ground realities of Manipur that are unfolding for the past three months before the video of 4th May went viral on July 20, 2023.
When questioned by a TV reporter about his inaction, the Chief Minister shamelessly justified that there are hundreds of similar cases registered in various PSs of Manipur. His only action had been to ban the Internet to stop information about crimes on people being leaked out. The FIR states that the assailants were armed with sophisticated weapons like AK Rifles, SLR, INSAS and .303 Rifles. A report says that there are at least 157 FIRs registered in various PSs of Manipur of similar nature. Clearly, the government of Biren Singh has deliberately turned the dominant community into a mob, engineering ethnic genocide by legitimising majoritarianism and creating an atmosphere of terror and intimidation. The Chief Minister has stigmatised 32 villages in Churachandrapur district of Kuki majority as illegal immigrants and encroachers on protected forest land. As some of them are in poppy cultivation, the whole community has been labelled as drug peddlers.
The Central government belonging to the same ruling dispensation too was aware of the horrendous crimes perpetuated on Kukis by Meitei-chauvinist groups. Within last 80 days of extreme violence, the Chief Minister N Biren Singh met the Home Minister twice and Prime Minister once in Delhi. Home Minister Amit Shah has made a four-day visit to Manipur in May-June. When Chief Minister Biren Singh with his four ministers made the first visit to Delhi on May14, 2023, there were already more than 50 FIRs of extreme sexual violence on women. He is expected to submit a status report which should be forwarded to the PMO. Neither the Home Ministry nor the PMO thought that these gross violations were even worth noticing. Their response was only to further militarise the state by deploying more and more armed forces. Militarisation can never be the solution. We must not forget that the Indian State’s control over lives and resources in Manipur have had far reaching implications in creating polarisation between the local communities. The constant militarisation and rule of AFSPA has ensured that an air of suspicion and distrust looms constant over the area. The present conflict between the Meiteis and Kukis over the ST status and land rights needs to be seen in this historical context. This is happening when the horror of crimes committed by the Indian Army under the impunity of AFSPA are still fresh in the minds of Manipuri people. It was only in 2004 that India had woken up to the gruesome rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama by the Indian Army in the name of “national Security”. Manorama was then labelled a dreaded “militant” to justify the act of rape. The country witnessed the naked protest of Meira Paibis of Meitei community holding a banner saying ‘India Army Rape Us’ in front of Kangla Fort. It is deeply disturbing that the women of the same community are now colluding and perpetrating violence on the Kuki women. We assert that women’s bodies cannot be the battlefield of conflicts by the state or warring communities.
There are more than 6000 FIRs of vandalism, burning down the houses, churches, brutal killings to the extent of beheading of people of Kuki-Zo community and forcing them to leave dwellings and running for shelters. Shockingly, the state has made zero arrests. Allegations are surfacing that small Kuki-Zo girls are being raped and buried.
Over 150 people have died, state armouries are looted and automated weapons are being used. Women and girls are routinely raped and killed. Nearly a lakh of people are homeless, many have taken shelter in temporary shelter homes with little facility for food, hygiene and medicines. Shutting down of the Internet has reduced people to penury with no ATM facility and increasing desperation in losing contact with their families and friends and the outside world. Today the State that has consciously engineered this conflict to squash the fight for the right to self-determination that has been growing in the North-Eastern States, chooses to remain a mute spectator to the violence perpetrated on minorities and to their physical and psychological trauma.
It is no small coincidence that this so-called “ethnic conflict” has been engineered at the same time that the Indian government is signing MoUs with mega corporates eyeing the immense natural resources lying in the land, hills and forests of Manipur. This Hindutva project of instigating carnage and justifying dispossession of people must be seen in the light of right-wing agenda of taking control of the hills and forests for grabbing natural resources to fill the coffers of the corporates.
Chief Minister N Biren Singh belonging to the Meitei community, fuelling ethnic violence, mirrors the Gujarat pogrom of 2002; the police was instructed to remain inert then and even now. He has no moral right to continue holding the post of Chief Minister and should be dismissed immediately. The modus-operandi of the Hindu Rashtra is that of the administration harboring Hindu right wing sentiments and remaining silent when dominant communities unleash violence. In fact, there are many within the state apparatus as well as non-state actors who actively fuel and perpetuate these conflicts. The Home Ministry must be taken to task. The deafening silence of President Draupadi Murmu who is otherwise hailed as the representative of the Adivasi community is shameful and reflects the intentions of the Indian State.
- Immediate dismissal of CM N Biren Singh and Home Minister Amit Shah
- Women and other survivors to be provided trauma counseling and legal, social and physical support.
- Rehabilitation of the dispossessed
- Independent investigation committee comprising civil society and activists from both the communities for enquiry into crimes and violence without fear of State reprisal or police cases.
- Civil society and activist must independently constitute team for reconciliation and peace building
- Internet services must be immediately restored
- We demand political dialogues with Manipuri community
- De-militarisation process must be started immediately
Feminists in Resistance (FIR), All India Revolutionary Women’s Organization(AIRWO), Shramjibi Nari Mancha, Nari Chetona, All India Progressive Women’s Association(AIPWA), Progressive Democratic Students Federation (PDSF), Revolutionary Students’ Front (RSF), Inquilabi Students’ Unity (ISU), Democratic Youth Students’ Association (DYSA), Naya Disha, Indian Federation of Trade Unions, and more than 100 individuals.