Rajat Sharma


akbEven as Manipur Police hurriedly arrested the prime accused and three others two months after the barbaric incident, when a nearly 1,000-strong mob paraded two Kuki women naked before they were gangraped, the entire nation seethes with anger. Every Indian hangs his or her head in shame. There is demand to hang the culprits in public. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguish saying the heinous incident has shamed the entire country. “What has happened to the daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven”, he said. Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, taking suo motu cognizance of the case, said, “we were very, very disturbed by the video that has emerged depicting the parading of two women…Using women as an instrument in a strife-torn area to perpetrate gender violence is completely unacceptable. Both Centre and the state must act, failing which we will pass orders”. I watched the video with a feeling of sadness, anger and grief. This incident has seared my soul, and brought tears to my eyes. Nobody can imagine such a horrific incident can happen in a country like India. The government has promised to take action, while the opposition has stalled Parliament on Thursday and Friday. The May 4 incident in Manipur has shamed humanity. For 78 days, the state police slept. One of the women paraded naked is the wife of a retired Kargil veteran, an Army subedar. Look at the sequence of events: the horrible parading of naked women and gangrape took place on May 4, a police complaint was filed after 14 days, on May 18, and on June 21, 48 days after the incident, police filed FIR. And yet, the culprits were not arrested. This incident would not have come to the notice of the nation, were it not for a video that was taken on the day of the horrific act. Since internet was down in Manipur, the video could not be posted. And on Wednesday evening, when the video was circulated on social media, all hell broke loose. It was only when the Prime Minister publicly condemned the incident that the state police sprung into action and the main culprit, 32-year-old Huirem Herodas Singh of Thoubal district was immediately arrested. I think Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh is telling a white lie when he says that he did not know about the incident. He is saying this to save his chair. He claims that he has been in talks with both Meitei and Kuki community leaders, and meeting displaced persons in refugee camps to help them return home. I think, the horrific incident that took place in Manipur is inhuman, and it should not be made a subject of political attacks and counter-attacks. There are many other issues for launching political attacks, but the horrific incident in Manipur raises questions about the helplessness of our entire system. Had the incident not been recorded on a mobile phone, the dark truth would have remained buried in the pages of history. The incident would have come to public two months ago, had internet not been snapped in Manipur. Police would have failed to suppress this incident and the culprits would have been caught two months ago. Had the chief minister not been busy in getting his resignation letter dramatically torn in front of a crowd, the culprits would have been behind bars two months ago. It does not matter whether the shameful incident took place two months ago or not. The faces of culprits are clearly seen in the video. The entire nation feels that these culprits must be punished in a manner so that it can strike fear in the minds of similar perpetrators. The fear should be such that the perpetrators would not have the courage to commit such a heinous act. I want to make one more point. It would be better if no compulsion be made to take action within the parameters of criminal procedure code. Since the Supreme Court has taken this seriously, can the apex court, going out of the way, give punishment to the culprits? The crime was done in front of a camera, the culprits are in front of a camera, the witnesses are there on camera. Should this case linger on trial for years? Each evidence of the crime is there. Will the testimonies be recorded again? Will these daughters have to go to courts again to narrate their tragedy? Will they have to face the indignity of being questioned again about the incident? Will there be fear about witnesses changing their statements, and the culprits going scot-free? Will it take years for a death sentence to be given? And when the capital punishment is given, will it linger for several years before their appeal for clemency is rejected? Is it necessary to go through the entire process again? Can the process of trial and conviction be changed, keeping in mind the tears of the nation? Or will our hands, tied by law, continue to sear our soul because of this helplessness? Will there be no change this time? This is the question that is before the nation, before the system.

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