Manipur Horror: How Fake News Led To Two Kuki-Zo Women Being Paraded Naked By Mob

According to media reports, the sexual violence shown in the video took place after fake news about a Meitei woman's rape and murder was circulated just after the ethnic violence erupted in Manipur on May 3

Manipur Violence

The shocking video which surfaced on Wednesday showing two tribal women from Kuki-Zo community being paraded naked by a mob, was learnt to be triggered by a piece of fake news. 

The video was doing the rounds on the eve of a planned protest march announced by the Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum (ITLF) on Thursday to highlight their plight. The Manipur Police arrested one of the main accused who was seen in the May 4 video of two tribal women being paraded naked and molested by a mob at a village in Senapati district, officials said. They said several police teams were formed immediately after the video of the incident surfaced.

How did fake news trigger the Manipur attack?

A day before the attack, violence erupted in Manipur over the Meiteis' demand for Scheduled Tribes (ST) status. The two women were part of a small group that had fled for safety on the margins of hills-valley on May 4, when the ethnic strike escalated dramatically.

According to a report in The Print, the sexual violence shown in the video took place after fake news about a Meitei woman's rape and murder was circulated just after the violence began. It "unleashed a new, deadly cycle of reprisal violence on Kuki tribal women allegedly by Meitei mobs", says the report. 

The fake news that was circulated included a picture of a woman's dead body wrapped in plastic claiming that it shows the body of a woman from the Meitei community who was sexually assaulted and killed by people from the Kuki tribe in the ongoing Manipur violence. BOOM, a fact-checking website found that the photo is of an old honour killing incident from Delhi, Aayushi Chaudhary who was murdered by her parents and her body later discarded in a red trolley bag near Yamuna Expressway in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.

However, by the time the fake news was busted, clashes had already erupted in the valley between Kukis and Meiteis. The inebriated men dragged a Kuki woman and a teenager to a paddy field in Kangpokpi district on 4 May and raped them. As their ordeal was on, the men screamed, “We will do to you what your men did to our women,” -- in an act of retribution, ThePrint reported on July 12. “It was all because of a fake news. The men were saying ‘this is revenge for the Churachandpur case’,” said the woman to ThePrint. 

Within 48 hours of the clashes breaking out in Manipur and the false claim spreading on social media, the police busted the fake news. On 5 May, then-Director General of Police P Doungel was quick to clarify that no rape of Meitei women took place in Churachandpur. "The father of the purported nursing student also gave a statement to Impact TV, that his daughter was unharmed. But by then, the fake news had unleashed a deadly cycle of violence on Kuki tribal women allegedly by the mob," fact-checker Mohammed Zubair said on Twitter.