In the Vietnam War, a horrifying photo of a naked young girl under the Napalm bombing seared the American conscience concerning immoral activity throughout the war. Now, a viral video of Christian Kuki women — paraded naked in public, groped, gang raped and one of them killed — has seared the Indian and even the global conscience.
Barely 24 hours after the video went viral, the Chief Justice of India expressed serious concern from the Court and asked the central government to act, or else the Supreme Court would take matters into their hands.
The central and the state Government in Manipur have failed to deal with the ethnic strife and carnage in Manipur, which has left the minority Christian Kuki population victims of heinous violence. This has occurred with complicity from the police. This is indeed the state of affairs wherever minority Christians have been attacked in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and other states. Local police throughout India allow Hindu extremist mobs to attack hapless Christians without consequences.
As the news of this violence emerges, the Christian identity of the Kuki population in Manipur fails to make the headlines. But Indian authorities can no longer deny the reality that this is a religious attack, and also a barbaric ethnic cleansing of a people group.
The knowledge of these particular incidents, which happened in May, has only now been revealed to the general public. This is due to Manipur finding itself under an internet blackout for 80 days. Now that footage has gone viral, it has caused severe anguish among Hindus, Muslims, Christians and other minorities who have not subscribed to a majoritarian Hindutva ideology sweeping across India. As the actor and Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan put it, "It's very frustrating. Every day something is happening with women. In UP we don't get to know what happens there."
The Chief Minister of Manipur — who has been sympathetic to the Meitei Hindu extremists — claiming there were hundreds of similar incidents on both sides is greatly misleading. When he speaks of unrest happening on both sides, he fails to mention that the vast majority of the victims are Kuki Christians.
When the BJP Vice President of the neighboring State of Mizoram resigned, he stated that in his opinion the BJP has become an anti-Christian party. This has brought clearer awareness throughout India, and throughout the world, that the rapes and murders of numerous women, and the burning of homes and churches, clearly represent targeted attacks against Kuki Christians.
At this point, it is obvious to state that Kuki Christians are under full-scale attack by radicalized Hindu groups and that the police are ignoring this injustice. This is not to say that Meitei Christians haven't suffered from ethnic violence as well. But there is no denying the destruction of hundreds of churches, the massive number of displaced Kuki Christians, and the brutal rape of their women.
In the wake of the outrage, Prime Minister Modi has broken his 80-day silence on the Manipur violence and the breakdown of law and order. He condemned the violence against these innocent Kuki women. Yet his statement veered into politics by also mentioning violence against women in Rajasthan and Chattisgarh, which is ruled by the opposition party.
The human rights issue has tragically been politicized here in India, as it often is elsewhere throughout the world. It's not only within the BJP. Other parties have also succumbed to this.
The India we knew is fast disappearing. This violent assault and murder of women in Manipur points to the possible India of the future if we fail to awaken the Indian conscience across religious and caste lines.
Whether it's a Muslim, Christian, Hindu, or Dalit woman that is raped and killed, all of India must speak out as one if pure, unadulterated justice is the goal. All Indians must reject any form of religious, caste or ethnic polarization that stands in the way of equal treatment under the law. India must reject any form of politics and hatred as it pertains to these issues.
Violence and sexual assault against any Indian woman is a travesty, no matter the background of the victim or the perpetrator. Yet if hate speech and bigotry continue to rule the day, as we've witnessed in Manipur, India will descend further into chaos for women nationwide.
Archbishop Joseph D'Souza is an internationally renowned human and civil rights activist. He is the founder of Dignity Freedom Network, an organization that advocates for and delivers humanitarian aid to the marginalized and outcastes of South Asia. He is archbishop of the Anglican Good Shepherd Church of India and serves as the president of the All India Christian Council.