July 25, 2023
Evil is inherent in the human mind whatever innocence may try to cloak it. - William Golding - Lord of the Flies.
It was a heady mixture of all the ingredients for a mob mayhem. Misguided youth with lost morality, intolerance towards ethnic minorities, failure of the state to protect minorities and minor ethnic groups, and a tacit complicity of the police force in facilitating the bizarre and horrific parade of two women by hundreds of men!
The sheer force of the terrifying events that unfolded two months back in Manipur by a mob of men parading two women disrobed and heinously attacking them in full public view and recording their shame. Yes, this event was recorded. One should imagine the brazen confidence that the law would protect them. There are so many more reports of women being paraded naked, raped, and killed and some of their bodies are not even found. The men who went to defend them were either killed or coerced to be silent witnesses to the spine-chilling events that unfolded in front of their eyes. These were not recorded. But happened.
Every citizen of India irrespective of their political leaning asks this one question. Why the sphinx-like silence from a person who brought in a ray of hope and sent a message to the world no one messes with India?
It was the retaliation of India in answer to Pakistan’s crossing the LoCs in 2016 and the ensuing victory over an offensive by the neighbour that confirmed the faith to some extent on Prime Minister Modi. It even converted some of his detractors who had not recovered from the Godhra mayhem allegedly orchestrated by his government at that time. The moot question that every conscientious Indian irrespective of political leaning asks now: Why is the prime minister of a country who could take on a super enemy silent on his domestic affairs? Is this a repetition of history on a larger scale? The parallels drawn on the Gujarat and Manipur obviously point to a complicit silence of violence orchestrated by the government machinery. One common thread being the persecution of minorities. As the husband of one of the two women on whom the untold misery was inflicted said “most of what happened was in the presence of the police”. Arms and ammunitions were picked by the mob from the police stations”. The mob that belonged to The Chauvinist militant groups like Arambai Tenggol and Eitie Leepun was responsible for the atrocity committed against the Kuki-Zo women and their community. 500,000 pieces of ammunition, including grenades and mortars were ‘stolen’ from police armoury. 349 churches were burnt, men of certain ethnicity and religions targeted, lynched and women shot and killed.
In the case of the video gone viral both the women were stripped, and raped over and over again with a timeline when police and state intervention could have easily protected them. Rape is used as an additional weapon of war. More than two months after the video went viral India wakes up. Was the internet shutdown a preventive action to curb snowballing of far-reaching consequences for the state anarchy? Does Manipur or the rest of the world believe that it was only after two months the news of the crime surfaced? Didn’t it come to the notice of the powers that be within the state? Manipur Chief minister Biren Singh admits that there are hundreds of similar incidents that have happened in the last 70 days. The solution was to prevent the world from knowing rather than preventing the mayhem from continuing.
Isn’t every woman irrespective of her religion, caste, creed, or belief a ‘Beti’ of India?
The slogan ‘Beti bachao’ becomes a slap on the face of the 75-year-old Mother India when the system itself participates in the pandemonium. A tribal woman as a president and a septuagenarian father figure as premier are silent witnesses to India’s daughters being stripped, paraded, their bodies made battlegrounds of sexual violence to settle scores, groped publicly, raped and killed. Superficial condemnation of such atrocious crimes is condoning such acts. This is a testimony to the impunity and cockiness of the perpetrators confidence that they would be let free with no real consequences.
It is a collective humiliation of the Indian society. The humiliation is felt not only by those women caught up in the pandemonium of the ethnic wars. It is the shame of every woman, every conscientious man, every son, brother, father, and a husband. Every Indian must FEEL this shame. Each culprit in the mob be treated with the harshest of punishments they deserve. To bring the perpetrators to justice. How? by booking every culprit involved. We however know that it would be naïve to believe, all the perpetrators will be booked, when most of the evidence is lost, no medical examination of the victims recorded and in most cases the victims themselves are not found, cases are prone to be swept under the rug and public memory that what it is, all will be forgotten until another mob, another lynching, another atrocity is committed.
Though we might want to believe of Evil as inherent in the human mind, education and culture must recognise and control it and replace good over evil. An exigent need to restore people’s trust in the Police, legislature, and judiciary systems, action both at the federal and state level in India is imminent. Only then India can be described as civilized not savage, reasonable not impulsive, law abiding not anarchic.
Here’s hoping against hope before India breaks into the celebratory mode of its 76th year of freedom, peace is restored in Manipur.
Let India awake in the words of Rabindranath Tagore:
“Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action.
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”