New Delhi: Days after a video showing harrowing abused faced by two Kuki women who were paraded naked and sexually assaulted by a Meitei crowd in Manipur came to light, Mizoram’s Meitei population has been attempting to leave the state in panic.
The panic, reported Indian Express, began after the Peace Accord MNF Returnees’ Association (PAMRA) — an association of former underground Mizo National Front Militants — issued a statement on July 21, asking Meiteis residing in Mizoram to leave “for their own safety”.
The Manipur government has said that it is going to deploy chartered flights to evacuate Meitei people from Mizoram. The Mizoram home department has, however, assured Meitei people that they are not in any imminent danger.
“I spoke to the PAMRA today and they said that their message had been misinterpreted. They said that it was not a threat but an expression of concern,” Mizoram Home Commissioner H Lalengmawia told Express.
India Today has reported that security was beefed up at Vety College, Selesih; Mizoram University, Tanhril; RIPANS, Zemabawk and ZMC, Falkawn.
Mizoram’s native Mizo community are ethnically linked to Manipur’s Kuki-Zomis. Express reports that 12,584 Kuki-Zomi people from Manipur have been housed at Mizoram since ethnic violence began in Manipur on May 3.
Mizoram’s Meitei population is no more than 2,000. Most live in Aizawl.
‘Handed over by Meira Paibis’
The Hindu has reported that an 18-year-old woman who was abducted, assaulted and gang-raped in the Imphal East district of Manipur on May 15, had said in her complaint to police that Meira Paibi women had “handed her over to four armed men.” The Meira Paibi are a civil society group of women activists and belong to the Meitei community.
The young woman approached Kangpokpi police on July 21, after the video showing the Thoubal district crime on Kuki women made ripples across the country.
The teenaged survivor had been admitted to a hospital in Nagaland with severe injuries.
Manipur in the UK
Concerns over Manipur were also brought up by the United Kingdom MP Fiona Bruce, who serves as UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief (FROB). During a session in the main chamber of the House of Commons on Thursday, MP Fiona Bruce expressed alarm about escalating violence in Manipur, The Times of India had reported.
The European Parliament had earlier adopted a motion, denouncing the ethnic violence “in the strongest terms nationalistic rhetoric deployed by leading members of the BJP party.”
During the oral questions session to church commissioners, MP Bruce said, “Since early May alone, hundreds of churches have been destroyed, many burnt to the ground; over 100 people have been killed, and over 50,000 displaced; schools and seminaries also targeted in what looks like systematic and premeditated attacks with religion a key factor. Yet there has been very little reporting about this. People there are calling out for help; what can the Church of England do to draw more attention to their cries?”
MP Bruce referred to a report, produced by former BBC reporter David Campanale for the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA), which she chairs.
Concerns had earlier been raised on Manipur at the May 15 meeting of the Council of Experts to IRFBA, leading to the initiation of the report. The report incorporates eyewitness testimonies from victims and emphasises that “the scale of the destruction of religious places of worship deserves far wider attention… The basic rights to freedom of worship and assembly have been directly impacted, and the resources required to rebuild churches and re-establish safe facilities to freely conduct Christian services will be significant.”
Inquiring about the Church of England’s recent efforts to protect FROB in other countries, Bruce asked Selous, who responded that the United Nations Security Council has recently adopted a resolution to produce an annual report on FROB sponsored by the UK and the UAE.
The report by Campanale recommends that the Indian government “send sufficient national Indian Army units to protect tribal villages” and urges a comprehensive investigation into the impact of the violence on FROB.
It further advocates for granting journalists access to the affected areas, convening inter-religious leaders at the state level to defuse tensions, establishing a claims commission, and restoring Internet services.