Kolkata: Civil rights activist Irom Sharmila Sunday described the incident of strip-and-parade of two tribal women as “inhuman” and “very disturbing” and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately intervene to address the situation in her home state.
The 51-year-old award-winning activist said she could not hold her tears after watching the video clip that showed two women being paraded naked and molested by a group of men in Kangpokpi district of the northeastern state on May 4.
The video which surfaced on July 19 sparked condemnation countrywide. Since then, the police have arrested six people.
“It’s inhuman and quite a disturbing incident. I could not hold my tears seeing the video I have received. I am deeply pained and shocked,” Sharmila told PTI in an exclusive interview from Bangalore.
Sharmila who hailed from Manipur had been on hunger strike for 16 years demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). She was force-fed by food tubes during that period.
“It’s clear that the state government in Manipur has failed totally. And when a state cannot control the situation, why is the Prime Minister silent? He should protect the people of Manipur. If he is concerned about the suffering of the people of Manipur, he must intervene… Like the people of Gujarat, the Maniuris also require his leadership,” she said.
The ‘Iron Lady’ of Manipur demanded that Chief Minister N Biren Singh should admit his failure and apologise to the people.
“The CM must talk to all 60 MLAs putting aside the differences. He must talk to them one-to-one and consider their opinions and decide how to stop the feeling of hatred between the two communities (Meitei and Kuki). That is the need of the hour,” she said.
Sharmila also felt that the ban on the internet to curb the circulation of fake news and videos in the ethnic violence-hit state of Manipur has not helped the situation in Manipur.
“I do not think this ban on the internet has helped in controlling violence in Manipur. On the contrary, Had the internet been working, the women (strip parade victims) could have got justice and the culprits were behind bars,” she said.
Prime Minister Modi, who was accused by the opposition of keeping mum on the Manipur situation for over two months, condemned the incident of parading the two women naked a day after the video surfaced.
Sharmila demanded that the culprits should be awarded life imprisonment with rigorous labour and without parole.
More than 160 people have lost their lives, and several have been injured since ethnic violence broke out in the state on May 3, when a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley, while tribals, which include Nagas and Kukis, constitute 40 per cent and reside mostly in the hill districts.