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Video showing sexual assault of 2 women in India sparks outrage and protests

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

OK, I have an important heads up right now. Please, know that this next story, which runs about four minutes, contains very disturbing details about sexual violence. A video of a sexual assault has gone viral. And it has sparked outrage in India. It shows two women being paraded naked while being groped by a mob of men in India's northeastern state of Manipur. The assault took place amid fighting between two ethnic groups there that has been going on since May. Nidhi Razdan has been following this story. She's a columnist for Gulf News and joins us from New Delhi. And she's here with us now to tell us more. Good morning.

NIDHI RAZDAN: Good morning.

MARTIN: Do we know anything more about what happened to the women in that video?

RAZDAN: Well, what we know is that the incident happened on the 4 of May, which was when the violence between these two ethnic groups had started to spiral. And there was a police report, a police complaint, that was filed on the 18 of May by a husband of one of the women in that video. The video actually shows two women being assaulted, but the police report says that there were five women in all who were assaulted and sexually groped and, you know, assaulted by this mob. It was a mob, they say, of 1,000 men. So it wasn't just a group of 20 or 30 people. It was quite a significant number. But what has caused outrage in India is the fact that this video of their assault surfaced 48 hours ago, and the police and the state government of Manipur have only stepped in to make arrests after outrage on social media and after India's Supreme Court stepped in and said that it would act if the government did not.

MARTIN: And forgive me for being very specific about this. I understand that at least one of the women was, in fact, gang raped. And as you mentioned, there were other women who were abused, but others were not. Is that accurate?

RAZDAN: That is what the police report says, and they're really very horrifying details. The report says that the youngest woman in the group, who is in her 20s, that she was gang raped. And the report goes on to say that her father and her brother were there. They were trying to save her from this mob of men. But they were beaten up by the mob and murdered right in front of her.

MARTIN: Oh, God.

RAZDAN: And their bodies were thrown away.

MARTIN: Oh, goodness.

RAZDAN: So the story is, like I said, extremely horrifying. And these details have been with the Manipur police for more than two months now. It is still a big question mark as to why they did not move in to arrest anybody in these two months, why they waited for the outrage, why they waited for India's Supreme Court to step in and for this video to come out.

MARTIN: We have...

RAZDAN: There has been, by the way, an internet ban in Manipur for the last two months since this violence started, which is why we're not really getting a lot of information from them.

MARTIN: I understand. We only have about a minute left. And I apologize because it's such an important story. But as we mentioned, there has been ethnic violence between these groups going on for months. Why were the women singled out and attacked in this way?

RAZDAN: Well, actually, it's not the first time that we're seeing women being used as instruments of violence in conflict. We've seen this happen in Manipur and in other parts of the world - in war zones before. You see rape and sexual assault being used as instruments of conflict. And I think that, you know, you see that here happening again. And by the way, I just want to mention, in this particular case, it started after fake news reports that a woman from one of the communities had been raped by men of the other community. And that's when this was apparently done as a revenge attack. So I think the dangers of misinformation, disinformation, fake news, that's another lesson we have to draw from all of this.

MARTIN: That's Nidhi Razdan. She's a columnist with Gulf News talking to us from New Delhi. Thank you so much for sharing this reporting with us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAX RICHTER'S "DEPARTURE (HOME)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.