At least four persons have been detained by police on charges of kidnapping and gang rape, and at least 30 others are being sought. The crime occurred as ethnic tensions spread throughout the distant state between the primarily Christian Kuki-Zo and predominately Hindu Meitei groups.
On Wednesday, a video that appeared to show two women from the Kuki-Zo group going down the street naked while being harassed by a crowd of people who were allegedly Meitei residents went viral.
Due to a May 3 internet restriction in Manipur, the video was released more than two months after it was shot.
At the period, disputes over land rights and job quotas led to violence between the majority Meitei and the minority Kuki-Zo. Conflicts have continued on and off ever since.
The Kuki-Zo community protested Meitei requests for protected public job quotas and college admissions as a form of affirmative action, as well as over long-held concerns that they could also be permitted to acquire land in regions traditionally allocated for tribal groups. This sparked the violence that followed.
Since the violence started, at least 130 people have died and more than 50,000 have fled their homes. Thousands have escaped to camps managed by the authorities. Numerous villages have had their homes and churches set on fire.
Manipur Tribal Forum, a civil society organization, claimed in a thorough report submitted to the Supreme Court in June that numerous horrible incidents of violence, such as rape and beheadings, had gone uninvestigated by state officials.
Khuirem Herodas, a Meitei who has been named as the primary suspect in the sexual assault investigation, was detained on Thursday.
After breaking his nearly 80-day silence on the atrocities in Manipur, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was apprehended shortly after calling the alleged sexual assault “shameful” and pledging stern punishment.
Also on Thursday, the Indian Supreme Court expressed its serious concern over the viral video and requested information from the state and federal governments regarding the measures taken to apprehend the offenders.
The court stated that “we will” take action if authorities do not.
Authorities in Manipur, governed by Modi’s BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, said that as soon as the video appeared on social media, police reacted.
On Thursday, the state’s chief minister, N Biren Singh, tweeted that a “thorough investigation” was in progress.