Police sources said the two women were part of a small group that fled for safety
The women paraded naked in Manipur were dragged away by a mob from police protection as ethnic violence flared up in the state early May, sources said on Thursday amid outrage and horror over a video of the incident that went viral yesterday.
The teen brother of one of the women was allegedly murdered that day by the same mob.
The trigger for the egregious act was allegedly a fake video.
Violence erupted in Manipur on May 3 between the valley-majority Meitei and the hill-majority Kuki tribe in Manipur over the Meiteis' demand for Scheduled Tribes (ST) status. The clashes started soon after a tribal solidarity rally in the hill regions.
According to police sources, the two women were part of a small group that had fled for safety towards a forested area on the margins of hills-valley on May 4, when the ethnic strike escalated dramatically amid attacks and counter attacks between two communities.
A mob, acting on rumours - believed to be fake - that women from their community had been raped, allegedly raided a village and chased the group.
The group comprised two men and three women. Three belonged to a family - a 56-year-old man, his 19-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter. Two other women were with them, one 42 years old and the other aged 52.
According to the FIR, the group, on their way to the forest, found a police team from the Nongpok Sekmai police station.
Around 2 km from the police station, the group, along with the policemen, were accosted allegedly by a mob of about 800 to 1,000 men. The mob allegedly snatched the group from the custody of the police.
The 19-year-old man was allegedly killed at the spot when he tried to save his 21-year-old sister from the mob.
A police complaint filed by relatives of the women reveals that one of the women was gang-raped. Based on the complaint, the police said a zero FIR was registered on May 18. The case was transferred on May 21 to Nogpok Sekmai police station, where the incident took place.
Internet has been suspended in Manipur since May 3. The video emerged on Thursday and quickly went viral on social media, with posts expressing outrage and disgust.
A day after the video went viral, one of the men in the mob, Heradas, was arrested today, more than two months after the incident. The 32-year-old was seen in the video, in a green t-shirt, the police said.
The police are trying to establish the identity of the other accused in the video through facial recognition technology. About a dozen teams are working on the case, the police said, though it is not clear why no action was taken for 77 days.
"The situation was difficult and the initial focus was on crisis management and relief," government sources said on the delay in action.