A 21-year-old woman, who was among the two women stripped, paraded, gang-raped and filmed by a mob in Manipur’s Thoubal on May 4, has said in a statement to the police that they had sought refuge in a police vehicle parked nearby, but the two policemen present initially refused to help, saying, “There is no ignition key.”
Later, the policemen disappeared after driving the rape survivors towards a 1,000-strong mob.
The statements of the two victims recorded by the Manipur Police on July 21 and July 26 under Section 161 of the CrPC, and accessed by The Hindu, reveal the ordeal faced by the victims.
It was earlier reported, based on the First Information Report (FIR), that only one of the three women who were stripped and paraded was raped, while two of them were seen in the video that went viral on July 19. However, statements accessed by The Hindu show that two of the three women were gang-raped.
After they were sexually assaulted, the women had to trek through forests and hills for 48 hours before finding a safe location. They begged the mob to give them clothes, and shared the same pair of slippers as one of them had lost hers, walking kilometres barefoot.
A survivor identified her older brother’s friend, a 26-year-old man. He was in the same mob that also killed her younger brother and father.
The survivor said that after ethnic violence between the Kuki and Meitei communities erupted in Manipur on May 3, she, along with eight others, including her father and brother, took refuge in the nearby forests. The next day, a mob attacked their village, and burnt down houses and the local church.
She said that on the afternoon of May 4, a small mob holding church drums and bells, and axes, knives, guns and sticks, came to their village and “while they were chasing the goats”, one of the goats ran in their direction, giving away their place of hiding.
The mob asked for their Aadhaar cards, and after it was known that they were not Kukis but from the Zomi community, they were allowed to go, and warned that they should leave before another large mob of 1,000 men reached their location. They were, however, spotted.
“Some of the Meitei mobs told us to approach the police Gypsy [van] just a few [metres] distance away from us... You will be a little bit safe with the police,” the survivor recounts in her statement.
She said that, on the way, the mob hit her father and brother, pulled their hair, and punched and kicked them. At this point, her father was separated from them, and the three women, and her brother, sat in the police vehicle, she stated.
“My younger brother requested the policemen, ‘Brother, Please help us,’ ‘Drive the vehicle’ The driver made an excuse ‘There is no key’. We kept on begging to help us and my father. After a while, the driver stopped the vehicle near the mobs numbering more than 1000….we prayed for our safety. The two policemen got down and disappeared from the spot,” the survivor’s statement records.
The mob dragged her brother away and pulled the women down from the vehicle.
She said the mob tore their clothes, and took away their money and mobile phones.
“They also took away all our important documents i.e. Aadhar cards, Voter ID, educational certificates, ….I saw my brother at a distance beaten up by the Meitei mobs using (wooden) logs. I saw him falling on the ground,” she states, adding that her older brother’s friend was among the attackers.
She said she was taken to a field and raped several times. The mob dropped her back to the place she was disrobed, where she asked a 50-year-old man for help. “He gave me one T-shirt (orange in colour). The mob insisted I take off the T-shirt,” she stated.
She said she found the other victim, a 42-year-old woman, a few metres away, who collected their clothes that lay scattered on the ground, helping her put them on. On her way back, she saw the bodies of her father and brother lying in a ditch.
She said they took shelter in a school, and after a while met some village elders. Since the mob was on a rampage, they had to move continuously, reaching the highest hill range in that area. After the sexual assault, she called up her friend, a Naga, from the mobile phone of one of the villagers, narrating the ordeal. The friend came to see her and they got married on May 6.
She said there was a delay in filing the FIR as her “family members as well as villagers were scattered here and there after the violence”.
“After consulting one another, we agreed to report the matter to the nearest Police Station. My 65-year-old cousin went to Saikul Police Station to report the matter on May 18,” she stated.
The Zero FIR in the case was registered on May 18 in Kangpokpi district in the hills. It was transferred to Thoubal Police Station in the Valley on June 21.
So far, seven persons, including a juvenile person, have been arrested. The arrests have been made since July 20, after the video of the assault went viral on social media.