Washington, July 26 (IANS) Indian-Americans and allies held protests in US states of California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts throughout the weekend to condemn the ongoing ethnic violence in Manipur, which has left hundreds of people dead and thousands displaced.
The protests were in part a response to a horrific video last week, showing two young tribal women being paraded naked while being molested by a group of men in the violence-hit state.
In California, Indian-Americans and allies gathered on the steps of Oakland City Hall for a protest organized by several advocacy groups, including the North American Manipur Tribal Association (NAMTA), Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), and Ambedkar King Study Circle.
“They chased us out of our homes. They burned our homes, our properties. They looted, they killed, they raped, they immolated, they beheaded, they’ve left us broken and everything we own reduced to ashes,” said Niang Hangzo, founding member of NAMTA.
“This is the butchery being done to the Kuki-Zomi… How long will the world stay silent? We want the House to bring this issue and discuss it like the EU (Parliament) has done.” T
he European Parliament had adopted a resolution earlier this month, calling on Indian authorities to take “all necessary” measures to stop the violence in Manipur and protect religious minorities, especially Christians. India condemned the resolution, calling it an “interference” in its internal affairs.
In Iselin, New Jersey, IAMC organized a protest and candlelight vigil attended by people from diverse faith and ethnic backgrounds, including members of local churches, NAMTA, and the National Association of Asian Indian Christians.
“If those two women could be dragged and paraded, it could happen to any other woman, no matter what religion,” said Pastor Prem Kankanala, representing the United Telugu Christ Church.
“Let us be united and raise our voices to protect women and to protect minorities,” he added.
In Boston, Massachusetts, several Indian-Americans and allies came together to express solidarity with the victims and urging President Joe Biden’s administration to intervene and call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to halt the escalating violence in Manipur.
Following the protests, a senior Biden administration official said on Tuesday that the US is “shocked and horrified by the video of an extreme attack on two women in Manipur”.
“We convey our profound sympathies to the survivors of this act of gender-based violence and support the Indian Government’s efforts to seek justice for them,” Vedant Patel, Deputy Spokesperson of the State Department, said.
In his first public comments on the situation in Manipur, Prime Minister Modi last week expressed pain and anger over the incident, saying it has shamed 140 crore Indians and asserted that the guilty will not be spared, even as opposition Congress said the remarks came “too little, too late”.
The violence erupted on May 3 after the Kuki-Zomi community protested against the Meitei demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
The majority Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley, while tribals, which include Nagas and Kukis, constitute 40 per cent and reside mostly in the hill districts.