Days after a video of women being paraded naked and groped in Manipur led to nationwide outrage, Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Chairperson Swati Paliwal on Sunday arrived in the violence-hit state.
Manipur has been in the grips of ethnic violence since May 3. More than 130 have been killed and several thousands have been displaced in the violence between the state's Meitei and tribal communities. Houses have been burnt, religious places have been attacked, and even establishments associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), such as the houses of ministers and leaders, have been attacked and set on fire.
After reaching Manipur, Maliwal said that she has sought a meeting with Chief Minister N Biren Singh. She also said that she also wants to meet sexual abuse victims and see if they got legal aid, counselling, or any compensation.
Maliwal told ANI, "I will directly go to the CM's Office, I want to meet Chief Minister N Biren Singh. I want to meet the sexual abuse survivors and see if they have got legal aid, counselling or any compensation. I appeal to the Manipur Govt that I have come here to help the people of the state, please allow me to do that."
In a separate interaction with media, Maliwal urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Zubin Irani to visit Manipur.
"I appeal to the Prime Minister and the Union Minister of Women and Child Development to visit Manipur. Manipur is burning. It has been burning for three months. People are suffering a lot. Even as I landed here, women surrounded me to tell me that there has been a lot of violence. I have to come here as they [PM, WCD Minister] have not come. Those whose work it is, if they come here and do their work, I will go back," said Maliwal in Hindi.
Maliwal had alleged on Saturday that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Manipur had refused to let her visit the state to interact with sexual violence survivors. In a tweet on Sunday, Maliwal said she had written to Singh, seeking an urgent meeting with him during her visit. She also shared a copy of the letter.
"I seek an urgent meeting with your hon'ble self to discuss the extremely pertinent issue of the human rights violations and sexual assault cases occurring in Manipur.... Several Manipuri women have come to Delhi in order to escape the ongoing violence in the state. I wish to discuss issues regarding their welfare as well with your hon'ble self," said Maliwal in the letter, also seeking Singh's support in visiting relief camps where the victims of sexual assault are presently staying.
She said, "I request you to kindly issue directions to the officers to facilitate my visit. As a fellow citizen of this country and the head of a statutory body protecting women and girls, I appeal to your hon'ble self to aid me in providing help and support to the sisters of Manipur. I assure you that I shall not be doing anything that creates a problem for your government during my visit to the state...I assure you that I shall leave no stone unturned to support the Manipur government in its mandate to protect the rights and dignity of the women and girls of the state."
Maliwal said she had written to Singh on July 20 and to the Manipur Police chief on July 21 regarding her visit to the state to interact with the survivors of sexual violence.
She said, "A letter dated 21.07.2023 was sent to DM, Imphal who forwarded the same to Joint Secretary (Home) with the request to provide necessary support to the undersigned (Maliwal) and her team. The DM also gave us the contact numbers of the Joint Secretary (Home) who confirmed to us that we can travel to Manipur and he shall provide the necessary support to us in visiting the relief camps. Subsequently, we planned our travel to Imphal...However, suddenly we received an email from the Joint Secretary (Home) requesting us to consider postponing our visit in view of the current law and order situation in Manipur."
In the incident of two women being paraded naked and being groped, the police have arrested five men and apprehended a juvenile. The incident took place on May 4 in Kangpokpi district. The incident led to nationwide outrage and condemnation. For the first time since the violence began, PM Modi addressed the situation a day after the video emerged. He said the incident was "shameful" and had put the entire country in shame.
He said, "Today, when I am standing by this temple of democracy my heart is full of pain and anger. The incident in Manipur that has come to light is shameful. This incident will put any civilised society to shame...The sinners and criminals, no matter who they are or how many there are, but the entire nation is disgraced. 140 crore people of the country are put to shame."
The Opposition has criticised Modi for being silent on the violence so far. The Opposition parties, 26 of whom have come together under the INDIA coalition, are currently pressing for Modi to make a statement on Manipur violence in the Parliament and are also pressing for a discussion on the situation in Manipur in the Parliament.