UN voices alarm over Manipur violence

Burnt Bibles from the attacks on Christians in Manipur.(Photo: Open Doors)

UN experts have expressed alarm about ongoing violence in the Indian state of Manipur that has left over a hundred Christians dead.

They raised concerns about the "inadequate humanitarian response" and deteriorating situation for religious and ethnic minorities in India after months of ethnoreligious violence between the mostly Hindu Meitei ethnic community and largely Christian Kukis. 

A statement from the experts, who include Nazila Ghanea, the UN's Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, condemned reports of sexual violence, destruction of homes, extrajudicial killings and torture among other abuses in the north-eastern state. 

The statement expresses particular concern about acts of violence against Kuki women and girls. 

"We are appalled by the reports and images of gender-based violence targeting hundreds of women and girls of all ages, and predominantly of the Kuki ethnic minority. The alleged violence includes gang rape, parading women naked in the street, severe beatings causing death, and burning them alive or dead," the experts said.

"It is particularly concerning that the violence seems to have been preceded and incited by hateful and inflammatory speech that spread online and offline to justify the atrocities committed against the Kuki ethnic minority, particularly women, on account of their ethnicity and religious belief.

"We are further alarmed by the reported misuse of counterrorism measures to legitimise acts of violence and repression against ethnic and religious minorities."

At least 160 people are reported to have been killed in Manipur in the last few months, most of them Kukis. Hundreds more have been injured.

Open Doors, a non-profit organisation that monitors persecution against Christians around the world, believes more than 120 Christians have been killed in the violence while another 50,000 have been displaced. 

The charity reports that around 4,500 Christian buildings and homes, and around 400 churches have been destroyed. 

The UN experts are calling on the Indian government to step up its efforts to hold perpetrators to account and provide relief for victims.

"We have serious concerns about the apparent slow and inadequate response by the government of India, including law enforcement, to stem physical and sexual violence and hate speech in Manipur," they said.