As a shocking video of two women being paraded naked and brutalized in the state of Manipur went viral in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed reporters for less than a minute on Thursday, July 20, in condemning the incident.
Modi said he was “full of pain and anger” and promised that the law will act with its “full might and firmness.” Yet this condemnation was criticized by many as being too little too late. Political parties and civil society members pointed out that his comments came 79 days after the incident took place.
Prime Minister Modi had been conspicuously silent on the violence in Manipur until the video emerged and little had also been heard from his senior ministers. Just hours before Modi’s comments, the Supreme Court harshly criticized the state and the central governments for such prolonged inaction.
The video showed two women being paraded naked down the street by a mob, and according to reports at least one of them was brutally gang raped. The incident occurred on May 4, at the very outset of ethnic and religious clashes in the northeastern State of Manipur.
The women were from the Kuki community, an ethnically tribal group from southern Manipur, and the mob consisted of Meiteis, an ethnolinguistic group of people mainly residing in the Imphal Valley. The ongoing violence which broke out in early May between the Meiteis and the Kukis has so far claimed over 150 lives and displaced tens of thousands across the state.
The state government, led by N. Biren Singh of Modi’s own right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, is alleged to have acted in favor of Meitei rioters and lynch mobs, making few arrests of perpetrators of violence from the community.