Birmingham protest against state violence in Manipur

Birmingham protest against state violence in Manipur

A large demonstration took place today, outside the Consulate General of India in Birmingham Indian.  Organised by the United Front Alliance UK, the demonstration protested against the demonstration protested against the recent ongoing communal violence and outrageous attacks on women in the state of Manipur in India.

Angered by the violence which has left over 180 people dead in recent months, over 300 injured, and an estimated 60,000 people having been displaced due to the communal violence.

Viral film footage from the region, led to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to finally break his silence on the ongoing ethnic violence in the northeastern state of Manipur. The footage, which became public only last month, sparked outrage far beyond the state: Filmed on May 4, it showed a mob assaulting two women from the Kuki Adivasis minority—stripped naked, groped and sexually assaulted, as they are then pushed into an empty field to then be (allegedly) gangraped. 

Reports citing the victims’ families revealed the complicity of the state police. Ironically, the police station a few hundred yards from the site of the crime was awarded the “Best in the Country” title in 2020.  Although the incident occurred in May, for nearly 2 months Police authorities did not act, and were forced into responding only once videos of the assaults surfaced on social media.  This led to the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi having to comment, claiming the incident had filled his heart with grief and anger.  “Any civil society should be ashamed by it,” he said. 

Manipur is a region that has been beset with conflict, ever since India’s independence in 1947.  Based in Northeast India, it borders China and Myanmar.  The current strife in Manipur has pitted two ethnic groups against each other.   Conflict broke out in May between the mostly Hindu Meiteis, the state’s dominant ethnic group who live in lowlands around the state capital Imphal, and the hill-dwelling Adivasi Kukis, mostly Christian. Tensions between the groups escalated after the state’s BJP-led government floated a plan to extend tribal status to the Meiteis, which would give them the same affirmative privileges enjoyed by the Kukis, who have been neglected for decades, including the right to buy land in the hills.

Many community and grass roots organisations participated in the protest, and had the following to say:

Mr Bhagwant Singh,

United Front Alliance UK, said:

“The comments made by the Chief Minister – Biren Singh, that ‘rapes and violence happen every day’, were insensitive, and an outrage to the victims of Manipur – especially when it was BJP members who were identified in the attack on the women”.

Mr Lekh Pall,

Coalition for Justice in India – UK, said:

“It is very disturbing that the communal riots, violence and rape of women in Manipur is being ignored by the Indian government. What is perhaps worse, is the turning of blind eye by the British government to this human suffering on a large scale, in which the Indian State and Central governments are clearly complicit.” 

Mr Ravi Kumar,

Dalit Federation UK, said:

“We are deeply concerned about the continuing ethnic violence in Manipur between the Meitei community and the tribal Kuki and Zo communities. We demand an immediate stop to this violence that is causing a large-scale disruption of lives, livelihoods and properties and unleashing even more terror among people.  The Indian Government needs to take action immediately and provide protection for minorities to be able to live in dignity and free from persecution in India”.  

Dr Lotika Singha,

Indian Labour Solidarity UK, said:

“India Labour Solidarity UK is extremely concerned about the violence that is part of an ongoing politically sanctioned politics of hatred and ethnic cleansing of the Kuki-Zo tribal communities from the hill areas of Manipur. The fact that killings continue to happen even over three months after the first day of rioting, shows an absolute failure or complicity of the state and central governance in the unravelling of Manipur’s multi-ethnic society. We demand an immediate resignation of the state chief minister, institution of president’s rule and end to the violence as first steps to restitution of peace in Manipur, and also clarity on the underlying causes of this conflict.”

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