UN rights experts target India over Manipur ethnic clashes

GENEVA  -  UN experts have condemned the Indian government's slow and inadequate response to serious rights violations, in­cluding sexual violence, amid deadly ethnic clashes in the country's remote northeast.

"We have serious concerns about the apparent slow and inadequate response by the government of India, includ­ing law enforcement, to stem physical and sexual violence and hate speech in Manipur city," they said in a statement issued here yesterday.

The nearly 20 independent United Nations rights experts, including the Special Rap­porteurs on violence against women and girls and on tor­ture, responded to the abuses reported since clashes broke out in Manipur in May.

Reports indicated that by mid-August, around 160 people had been killed and 300 oth­ers injured in the violence, they said, also pointing to tens of thousands of people displaced thousands of homes and hundreds of churches burnt down and farmland de­stroyed. In particular, the experts said they were “appalled by the reports and images of gender-based violence targeting hun­dreds of women and girls of all ages, and predominantly of the Kuki ethnic minori­ty”. “The alleged violence includes gang rape, parading women naked in the street, severe beatings causing death, and burn­ing them alive or dead,” they said.

The experts, who are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council but who do not speak on behalf of the United Nations, said they were especially concerned “that the violence seems to have been preced­ed and incited by hateful and inflamma­tory speech”. Such hate speech, spread online and offline, had been used “to jus­tify the atrocities committed against the Kuki ethnic minority, particularly wom­en, on account of their ethnicity and reli­gious belief”, they said. Manipur has been fractured along ethnic lines, with rival militias setting up blockades to keep out members of the opposing community.

Tens of thousands of additional soldiers have been rushed from elsewhere to pa­trol towns and highways, and a curfew and internet shutdown remain in force across Manipur. The UN experts called on the Indian government “to step up relief efforts to those affected and to take ro­bust and timely action to investigate acts of violence.” They stressed the need to “hold perpetrators to account, including public officials who may have aided and abetted the incitement of racial and reli­gious hatred and violence.”

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