The latest in a series of accounts of blood-curdling mob crimes taking place behind the smokescreen of the ethnic conflict might have remained buried under the mountain of 6,000-odd FIRs registered so far had a Meitei friend of the two victims not informed their families of what happened.
The friend, who saw from a distance a police ambulance pick up the brutalised duo, visited the hospital the next day and was informed that both died of their wounds, she told TOI on Friday.
She woman conveyed the news to a cousin of one of the victims who was hiding in a church to escape the mob frenzy. It was only after the Assam Rifles evacuated her to Kangpokpi that the families of the victims came to know of the tragedy that befell their girls.
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“It was gruesome,” a male co-worker of the two victims said. “A large group of men came along with some women to the car wash around 5.30pm on May 4. Everyone in the locality knew that these two tribal women were employed there.”
The witness alleged that the women in the mob encouraged the men to take the victims inside a room and sexually assault them. “They dragged one of them inside, switched off the lights and took turns raping her. Then they did the same to my other co-worker. They gagged both with clothes to prevent them from screaming.”
The ordeal continued for about one-and-a-half hours, after which the mob dragged both women outside and dumped them next to a sawmill in the vicinity, a second co-worker who witnessed the crime said.
“Their clothes were torn, their hair chopped off, and their bodies covered in blood,” the man, also a tribal, said.
A suo motu FIR was registered at Porompat police station in Imphal East district the same day, based on information received around 8.20pm about mob violence against tribal communities in the Andro parking area near Bheigo sawmill.
“Two grievously wounded women from the tribal community were moved to Jawaharlal Institute of Medical Sciences, where they died,” the FIR states.
The FIR does not mention the two girls’ identities, although the hospital recorded their names, possibly from their identity cards.
“We were afraid of the stigma. How could we say our daughters have been raped?” the mother of one of the women told TOI from her home at Kangpokpi, explaining why the family didn’t report the crime immediately after hearing of it. “I have accepted her death, and am trying to reconcile to what happened. What saddens me most is that I did not get her body.”
On May 16, she gathered courage and filed a Zero FIR at Saikul police station. The FIR states that her daughter and the other women worked as caretakers at Gama Car Wash near Konug in Imphal East district. “They were brutally murdered after being raped and gruesomely tortured,” it states.
Saikul police station brecords show that the FIR was transferred to Porompat police station later.
“I have not heard from the police since I filed the FIR. She was my eldest child and her monthly earning of Rs 5,000 was our big support. Her father is a small cultivator,” the mother said.
A senior official said the police were still examining thousands of complaints. “About 6000 FIRs have been filed on different types of crimes from weapons looting to arson to killings, arson, and assault on women. We are dealing with them and starting investigations,” he said.