As India is preparing to host the G20 leaders this week, United Nations experts raised the alarm about reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in Manipur, including alleged acts of sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, home destruction, forced displacement, torture and ill-treatment.
The experts, on 4 September, pointed to an “inadequate humanitarian response” in the wake of the grave humanitarian situation in Manipur following the latest round of community conflict between the predominantly Hindu Meitei and the predominantly Christian Kuki ethnic communities that erupted in May 2023.
By mid-August 2023, an estimated 160 persons had reportedly been killed, mostly from the Kuki ethnic community, and over 300 injured. The conflict also reportedly resulted in tens of thousands of people from the communities being displaced, thousands of homes and hundreds of churches being burnt down, as well the destruction of farmland, loss of crops and loss of livelihood.
“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,” they said. “We are further alarmed by the reported misuse of counterrorism measures to legitimise acts of violence and repression against ethnic and religious minorities.”
The experts said recent events in Manipur were another tragic milestone in the steadily deteriorating situation for religious and ethnic minorities in India.
“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,” the experts said.
The experts welcomed the fact-finding mission conducted by lawyers and human rights defenders in Manipur and the follow-up by the Supreme Court of India on the situation in Manipur, though the response could have come in a timelier manner. They urged the Supreme Court to continue monitoring the response of the Government and other actors, with a focus on justice, accountability, and reparations. “We are also concerned about reported criminalization and harassment of human rights defenders documenting the cases,” they said.
They urged the Government to step up relief efforts to those affected and to take robust and timely action to investigate acts of violence and hold perpetrators to account, including public officials who may have aided and abetted the incitement of racial and religious hatred and violence.
Meanwhile, India has strongly rejected comments by UN experts on Manipur, terming them “unwarranted, presumptive and misleading” and asserting that situation in Manipur is peaceful.
“The Permanent Mission of India completely rejects the news release as it is not only unwarranted, presumptive and misleading but also betrays a complete lack of understanding on the situation in Manipur and the steps taken by Government of India to address it,” said the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva.