Manipur video: Minister Amit Shah says CBI to investigate sexual assault

Demonstrators carry out a candle light protest over sexual assault case of two Kuki community women, during ongoing ethnic clashes between Meitei-Kuki community in Manipur, on July 26, 2023 in Guwahati, India.
Image caption,The viral video has sparked protests across the country

Authorities in India say the federal police will investigate a case of sexual assault of women seen in a video which has sparked global outrage.

Federal Home Minister Amit Shah said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) would take over the case from police in violence-hit Manipur state.

The video, filmed in Manipur, showed two women being paraded naked and groped and molested by a mob.

The incident occurred in early May but only became public last week.

Deadly violence has plunged Manipur, a scenic Indian state bordering Myanmar, into turmoil for almost three months.

Clashes have erupted between members of the majority Meitei and the minority Kuki tribal communities, leaving at least 130 dead and displacing tens of thousands.

The women in the video were Kukis, while the men surrounding them were from the Meitei group. Though a complaint was filed days after the incident, the first arrest in the case was only made the day after the video went viral, leading to questions about the state police’s handling of the case.

According to the police, seven people have been arrested so far in connection with the case. Mr Shah told journalists on Thursday that the person who allegedly recorded the incident has also been arrested.

The government has also asked India’s Supreme Court to transfer the trial in the case out of Manipur, he said.

Indian opposition leaders and activists have accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of not doing enough to address the crisis in Manipur. Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also in power in the state.

Mr Modi only publicly commented on the crisis in Manipur last week, after the video became public. He said the incident had shamed the country and that the guilty wouldn’t be spared. He hasn’t visited the state yet.

Opposition leaders have demanded that Mr Modi address parliament about the issue. They have also moved a no-trust motion against Mr Modi’s government which they say will force him to speak on the ethnic clashes.

Mr Shah has said his government was “ready to have a discussion” but blamed the opposition for not allowing it.

He said on Thursday that six rounds of talks had been held with representatives from Kukis and Meiteis, with retired bureaucrats and judges acting as interlocutors.

“They have made good progress and encouraged the hope that we may soon be able to get them to the negotiating table,” he told the Times of India newspaper.

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