Manipur Video: How Fake News Caused Violence Against Women

A shocking video emerged on Wednesday, showing a large mob of men parading two naked women in Manipur. The horrifying footage has sent shockwaves across the nation, raising serious concerns about the escalating violence and human rights violations amid the ongoing ethnic conflict in the region.

Calls for justice are pouring in from every segment of society, demanding accountability for the heinous act. Opposition leaders have demanded the imposition of President’s Rule in the state and the immediate removal of Manipur Chief Minister Biren Singh. 

In his first remarks over Manipur violence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the disturbing video. Calling the incident “shameful for any civilization”, he assured the nation that “no culprit will be spared. What happened to the daughters of Manipur will never be unpardoned.” 

The Supreme Court also took suo motu cognisance of the video saying it will take action if the government does not.

The atrocious incident has brought the issue of fake news and its role in inciting violence back into the spotlight, as it is said that the disturbing video was a result of fake news. This article will discuss how fake news contributes to violence in India.

What is the Manipur incident?

The viral video depicts the two women from the Kuki community being molested allegedly by a Meitei tribal mob, which then takes them to a field. 

As per the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), the incident is said to have occurred on 4 May in Kangpokpi district in Manipur, a day after clashes erupted between the two ethnic groups.

One of the two women seen in the viral video alleged that the police were there with the mob which was attacking their village and they were given to the mob by police. In a police complaint that was filed on May 18, the victims had also alleged that the younger woman was “brutally gang raped in the broad daylight,” reports The India Express.

CM Biren Singh announced on Thursday that the Manipur Police made the first arrest in connection with the incident.

Fake News in Manipur

Since February, Manipur has experienced unrest due to a government-led eviction drive, which many perceive as targeting a particular tribal group. 

On 3 May, there was widespread violence occurred following a “tribal solidarity rally” that protested against the Manipur High Court’s directive to include the non-tribal Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list. 

During these clashes, there were allegations of a Meitei nurse in the Churachandpur Medical College being raped and murdered by Kuki tribal men. Alongside this accusation, an image of a woman’s body wrapped in plastic circulated extensively on social media, claiming it showed the victim Meitei nurse.

Fact Crescendo promptly debunked this claim at the time as the viral image actually depicted a girl from Delhi who had been murdered by her parents in November 2022. It was an incident of honor killing where the victim’s parents murdered her for marrying someone from a different caste. 

Later, Manipur DGP P Doungel clarified that no rape cases were reported in Churachandpur. Moreover, the father of the supposed Meitei nurse confirmed to a local news channel that his daughter was safe and the rumors surrounding her were false.

According to reports, numerous Kuki women suffered the consequences of this misinformation, becoming victims of targeted violence. At least six cases of rape of Kuki women have been reported since the onset of the ethnic violence. The incident depicted in the viral video is also a consequence of such fake news.

Hoineilhing Sitlhou, a faculty member in the Department of Sociology at the University of Hyderabad, interviewed several rape survivors from the Kuki community. These women revealed that the perpetrators who assaulted them admitted to seeking revenge for the alleged rape of a Meitei woman in Churachandpur.

“The men were saying we will do to you what your men did to our women. This is revenge for the Churachandpur case,” told one Kuki woman who was raped on 4 May in Kangpokpi to the Print

There have also been allegations circulating on social media about Kukis, who are largely Christians, attacking Hindu temples in tribal-dominated regions.

However, the Bihari Society, the Bengali Society, and the Marwari Society of Manipur came together and issued a joint statement clarifying that non-Manipuri Hindus were not attacked or harmed in the Kuki areas.

How Fake News Causes Violence?

Fake news can lead to violence by exploiting human emotions, amplifying divisions, and provoking conflicts between different groups. 

Fake news often targets specific ethnic, religious, or social groups, spreading stereotypes, prejudice, and hatred against them. It can create an “us versus them” mentality, leading to hostility between different groups.

Fake news can manipulate public perceptions, incite hatred, and create a climate of fear and mistrust. When false information triggers intense emotional responses, individuals may be more inclined to take drastic actions, including resorting to violence. 

False information can also exaggerate or fabricate incidents, inflating minor conflicts into major issues.

History of Violence Due to Fake News 

The history of fake news-induced violence can be traced back to Spanish-American War which took place in 1898.

Leading newspapers in the US published exaggerated accounts of Spanish atrocities against the Cuban population, often without verifying the accuracy of the information. This type of reporting, known as yellow journalism, greatly influenced how the public felt about the situation and contributed to the outbreak of the war.

The Rwandan genocide in 1994 is another example of how misinformation and propaganda caused the death of approximately 800,000 people in just 100 days.

In Myanmar, fake news and disinformation campaigns on social media played a key role in fanning tensions between the Buddhist majority and the Rohingya Muslim minority, leading to one of the gravest humanitarian crises in recent times.

India and Fake News

In recent years, India has seen a concerning rise in violence fuelled by fake news. 

In 2013, the Muzaffarnagar riots in Uttar Pradesh were sparked by a series of fake videos on social media, allegedly showing a Muslim mob brutally murdering a Hindu youth. However, it was later revealed that the video was from a Gulf country.

In the last decade, there have been several cases of mob lynching caused by untrue rumors. Messages spreading false stories about child kidnappings, cow slaughter, and other sensitive topics led to people taking the law into their own hands, resulting in the tragic deaths of innocent people who were wrongly accused.

To fight against fake news, we need to use many different ways. This includes teaching people about media and how to check facts, making sure news is reported responsibly, creating rules and laws to control fake news, and using social media platforms responsibly. Only when we all work together can we reduce the harmful effects of fake news.

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Media Literacy Team
Media Literacy Team
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