In a press release issued today, United Nations human rights experts have expressed deep concern over reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in the Northeastern State of Manipur, India. These disturbing reports include allegations of sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, home destruction, forced displacement, torture, and ill-treatment.
The experts have highlighted what they refer to as an “inadequate humanitarian response” to the grave humanitarian crisis that has unfolded in Manipur. This crisis stems from a recent wave of community conflict between the predominantly Hindu Meitei and predominantly Christian Kuki ethnic communities that erupted in May 2023.
The statement said that by mid-August 2023, the conflict had claimed an estimated 160 lives, with the majority belonging to the Kuki ethnic community. Over 300 people were injured, and tens of thousands of individuals from these communities were displaced. Thousands of homes and hundreds of churches were reportedly set ablaze, farmland was destroyed, and crops were lost, resulting in severe livelihood challenges.
One particularly harrowing aspect of the situation is the reported gender-based violence targeting hundreds of women and girls, primarily from the Kuki ethnic minority, the experts said. These acts of violence allegedly include gang rape, public humiliation, fatal beatings, and even burning women alive or dead, they added.
The experts have expressed serious concerns about the role of hateful and inflammatory speech that was disseminated both online and offline, seemingly inciting and justifying these atrocities against the Kuki ethnic minority. Furthermore, they have raised alarm about the reported misuse of counterterrorism measures to legitimize acts of violence and repression against ethnic and religious minorities.
The deteriorating situation for religious and ethnic minorities in India has been highlighted by these events in Manipur. The UN experts have voiced their apprehension regarding the perceived slow and inadequate response by the Government of India, including law enforcement, in addressing the physical and sexual violence and hate speech in Manipur.
However, the experts have welcomed the fact-finding mission carried out by lawyers and human rights defenders in Manipur, as well as the follow-up actions taken by the Supreme Court of India regarding the situation in Manipur. They have urged the Supreme Court to maintain vigilance and closely monitor the government’s response, emphasising the need for justice, accountability, and reparations. Concerns were also expressed about the reported criminalization and harassment of human rights defenders documenting these cases.
In their closing remarks, the UN experts called upon the Government of India to intensify relief efforts for those affected by the crisis and to take swift and robust action to investigate acts of violence. They also emphasised the importance of holding perpetrators accountable, including public officials who may have contributed to the incitement of racial and religious hatred and violence.