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Indian Catholic women seek justice for Manipur victims 

Women in Manipur have been at the receiving end of 'structural violence' since May 3
Christian women activists take part in a candlelight vigil in protest over sexual violence against women in India's north-eastern state of Manipur, during a demonstration in Amritsar on July 27

Christian women activists take part in a candlelight vigil in protest over sexual violence against women in India's north-eastern state of Manipur, during a demonstration in Amritsar on July 27. (Photo: Narinder Nanu / AFP)

Published: July 31, 2023 12:32 PM GMT
Updated: August 01, 2023 03:38 AM GMT

Catholic women from a southern Indian diocese have demanded justice for two indigenous Christian women who were stripped naked and paraded by a mob of hundreds of men before allegedly gang-raping the younger woman, in strife-torn Manipur state.

“No matter our differences, rights, and dignity of women should be upheld,” said Priya Francis, secretary of the Women's Commission of Bangalore archdiocese in southern Karnataka state.

More than 1,000 women from different walks of life attended a protest meeting in front of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Church in the state capital Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) on July 30 against the ongoing riots in India’s northern state since May 3. 

The sectarian riots between indigenous Kuki Christians and the predominantly Hindu Meitei community have claimed more than 150 lives and displaced over 50,000 people. 

On July 19, a horrific video of the two Christian women being paraded naked with a huge mob of men inappropriately touching them surfaced on social media.

The mob was seen forcing them toward a field where the younger woman was reportedly raped repeatedly.

The video caused outrage across the country and forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence for the first time on large-scale violence in Manipur. 

It is alleged that police were present when the incident took place but action was taken only after the video surfaced. Seven people have been arrested as of July 24.

The participants at the protest in Bengaluru carried banners with slogans such as “Protect the dignity and lives of women in Manipur.”

They wanted the federal government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party to come to the rescue of struggling women in the troubled northeastern state.

“Women’s issues should be society’s highest priority,” said Priya Francis, secretary of the Women's Commission Archdiocese of Bangalore.

“We come together as a powerful force to uphold women's rights and dignity, condemning inhuman acts and demanding justice for the women of Manipur and the women of our country,” she added.

Sheema Mohsin, an activist from the Women's Islamic Voice, who participated in the protest, accused India's ruling dispensation of “ulterior motives.”

“They are dividing people and using excuses to carry on committing atrocities,” she alleged. 

Ruth Manorama, a Bangalore-based women's activist, said: "This is a socio-religious attack on minorities. This is organized and structural planning against the minorities.”

She also questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not visiting the strife-torn state, bordering the civil war-hit Myanmar.

Dr. Paul Newman, a well-known writer and principal of St. Joseph Evening College, called violence in Manipur "well-planned genocide and the highest level of crime."

The prime minister wants to stop the war in Ukraine but cannot stop the war in Manipur, he said.

India has seen protests in different parts of the country demanding the restoration of peace in the hilly northeastern state.

Women in Manipur have been at the receiving end of structural violence for nearly three months now.

Many reports have highlighted the violence against women and the pathetic condition they are reduced to living inside relief camps. 

Over 1,000 women staged a protest in Churachandpur town in Manipur on July 31, demanding action against the state's police for their failure to stop the violence.  

Thousands of Kuki women in Manipur's Tengnoupal district blocked roads on July 28 to stop the state forces from entering the border town of Moreh.

According to them, a large convoy of state police commandos is sent to Moreh town to support pro-Hindu radical groups.

The riots started over awarding reservation status to the majority and dominant community of Meiteis under India’s affirmative action.

The Church has one diocese in Manipur where nearly 41 percent of the state's population of 3.2 million people are Christians.

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