Indian Americans, allies in 3 US states hold protests against anti-Kuki violence in Manipur
Washington, D.C. (July 25, 2023) – Indian Americans and allies held protests in California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts on Friday and Sunday to condemn the ongoing ethnic violence in the northeast Indian state of Manipur, which has left at least 130 dead and 35,000 displaced. The brunt of the violence has predominantly impacted Manipur’s Christian Kuki-Zomi community, leading to the destruction of thousands of Kuki-owned homes and hundreds of churches.
The protests were in part a response to a horrific video that went viral last week, showing two Kuki women being paraded naked while being molested by a group of men. However, despite the ongoing brutality, India’s Hindu far-right government has largely remained silent on the violence faced by Christian tribals in Manipur.
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.
Speaking at the event was Niang Hangzo, founding member of NAMTA, who highlighted several instances of Meitei mob violence against Kuki-Zomis, including the gang-rape of a 21-year-old Kuki woman, the beheading and dismemberment of a Kuki man, and the fatal torching of an ambulance transporting an 8-year-old Kuki child and his mother to a hospital for treatment.
“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 Hangzo. “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.”
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.
“The Indian government only speaks out when viral videos of atrocities come up, but they’ve known what’s happening all along,” said NAMTA co-founder Mark Haokip. “There are so many videos of atrocities I saw that are now being buried because the internet in Manipur is banned. The government banned it so all these things could keep happening without any [news] coverage.”
“If those two [Kuki] 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.”
In Boston, Massachusetts, Indian Americans and allies, including IAMC, came together to hold a protest, expressing solidarity with the victims and urging the Biden administration to intervene and call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to halt the escalating violence in Manipur.
“It is our collective responsibility to raise our voices against such atrocities,” IAMC Associate Director Amin Zama said.
“American leaders who hosted Modi for a state dinner at the White House and [allowed him] to address a joint session of Congress should stand up and tell Narendra Modi to stop allowing the murder and ethnic cleansing of minorities,” Zama added.