April 20, 2024 6:20 am
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Indomitable Indian Women Demand Justice for ‘Shocking’ Abuse Video

Gender Trumps Tribe: Indian Mothers Burn Homes in Response to Video of Abuse

Gender took precedence over tribe as a group of outraged Indian mothers set fire to the homes of two men from their own community. These men were accused of abusing women in a video that has sparked widespread anger. The violence erupted in India’s northeastern state of Manipur, where at least 120 people have lost their lives during months of ethnic conflict between the Hindu Meitei majority and the Christian Kuki.

Mothers Taking a Stand

The Meitei community, primarily composed of women known as the “Meira Paibis” or the Mothers of Manipur, decided to express their fury after a disturbing video surfaced on Wednesday. The video reportedly shows two Kuki women being coerced into stripping naked while being taunted and harassed by Meitei men back in May. Four suspects were arrested by the police on Thursday, but that same day the Meira Paibis took matters into their own hands and set fire to the homes of two of the accused.

A Demand for Justice

“We condemn the violence against the women and that is why we want capital punishment,” stated Sumati, one of the Meira Paibis. “That is why we destroyed his house.” In a country known for its traditionalist, conservative, and patriarchal views, the Meitei community stands out for its history of women’s activism and the prominent role that women play in society.

  1. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his shame over the incident, stating that it had “shamed India.”
  2. The government of Manipur, led by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, is investigating the incident, which they describe as “heinous.”
  3. Both the Meitei and Kuki communities are condemning the event, finding common ground in their disapproval.

Torching as a Message

The Meira Paibis demolished the walls of the accused’s homes and proceeded to set them on fire, stuffing bales of hay inside for a stronger blaze. This act was meant to send a clear message. “We condemn what happened to the women,” said Sumati, who participated in one of the house burnings. “The accused and their family will not be able to live in their village. That is why we destroyed the house.”

Tensions Rooted in Reservations

The conflict between the Meitei and Kuki communities stems from Meitei demands for reserved public job quotas and college admissions, acting as a form of affirmative action. The Kuki oppose these demands, fearing that Meiteis might gain the right to acquire land in areas currently reserved for tribal groups. Human Rights Watch claims that these policies “promote Hindu majoritarianism.”

Vigilantes Protecting Their Own

Just as the Meira Paibis deliver their own brand of justice, they also protect their men. About 500 women rallied together, blocking roads to prevent around 100 armed police from apprehending another suspect connected to the video. These women jeered at the security forces for a three-hour standoff. The Meira Paibis have repeatedly barricaded roads during this period of unrest, accusing the army of bias towards the Kuki community. They even surround troops and demand the release of Meitei militia members when necessary.

Continued Commitment to Protection

Since the violence began, the Meira Paibis have initiated dusk-till-dawn patrols, using hammers on electricity poles as a signal for alarm. Their dedication to safeguarding their people is evident. “We have a legacy of protecting our people, and that gives us inner strength,” affirmed Meira Paibis member Matouleibi Chanu. The police have made six arrests in connection with the video, conducting raids for other suspects. However, a senior police officer acknowledges the challenges they face. He points out that men often hide behind protesting women, who are always at the forefront, making it difficult to use the same force as against men.

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