A group of enraged Indian women from the Meitei community set fire to the homes of two men accused of sexually abusing tribal women.
About the sexual assault: The incident was reportedly triggered by the disturbing viral video showing two Kuki women being forced to strip naked and subjected to harassment by Meitei men on May 4.
According to a complaint filed to the authorities some 15 days after the incident, a mob of around 800 to 1,000 people had earlier vandalized and burnt down several houses in a village in Kangpokpi district before targeting members of the Kuki tribe.
The police have arrested four suspects as of Thursday, including the man who allegedly instigated an armed mob to rape and parade the two women, aged 21 and 19, naked on the streets in Manipur.
Vigilante justice: The “Meira Paibis” or “Mothers of Manipur,” a group of Meitei women engaged in activism, have condemned the assault and sought capital punishment for the accused.
The Meira Paibis broke down the walls of the suspects’ homes and stuffed bales of hay inside before setting them ablaze.
“We condemn what happened to the women,” said Sumati, a member of the Meira Paibis who participated in the incident. “The accused and their family will not be able to live in their village. That is why we destroyed the house.”
Thangjam Lata Devi, the mother of one of the accused, also had her home torched by the women.
National outrage: The video of the assault went viral on social media this week, leading to unrest in the northeastern Indian state and nationwide protests led by various rights groups.
Protesters demanding justice for the victims have questioned the authorities’ failure to act promptly when they were informed about the sexual assault and abuse suffered by the women in Manipur.
Two months after the violence, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence and promised tough action against the culprits.
“I assure the nation, the law will take its course with all its might,” said Modi. “What happened with the daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven.”
Local authorities arrested the four suspects after Modi’s statement and are currently in pursuit of at least 30 other individuals involved in the crime.
Ethnic conflict: The violence in Manipur has been exacerbated by months of ethnic conflict between the predominantly Hindu Meitei majority and the mainly Christian Kuki, resulting in the deaths of at least 120 people and the displacement of tens of thousands.
The Meitei community has been advocating for reserved public job quotas and college admissions, sparking tensions with the Kuki community.