By: chandan borgohain
May 15 2023
The widespread ethnic violence in the Indian state of Manipur has killed at least 60 people and left over 200 injured, as per the state government. Around 1,700 houses, including religious places have been burnt as a result of the arson.
The violence that started on May 3, during a "Tribal Solidarity March" called by the All Tribal Students' Union Manipur (ATSUM), continued unabated till May 7. The march was to oppose the demand for inclusion of Manipur's Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category, which received a boost following the Manipur High Court's directive.
Amid all this, the internet was flooded with misinformation. Some claimed that the clash was a "communal" one (read our story here), while others shared old videos and images to misrepresent the situation. At a time when the situation was volatile and internet severed, some claims were particularly dangerous.
Here's a quick recap of some of the stories that Logically Facts has debunked.
1. Old video of gunfire falsely attributed to Manipur ethnic clashes
A video, (archived version) which shows people firing bullets from high-tech weapons at night, was shared to claim that men were from the Kuki community.
Screenshot of a tweet which claims that the video is from Manipur and shows people from Kuki community firing bullets at Meiteis. (SOURCE: Twitter/@BananaWalmart)
However, a reverse image search revealed that the video has been online since July 5, 2020. We found the video uploaded on an Instagram profile (threatty_), the user has added a link to a YouTube link by the same name on its bio. The YouTube channel description states, "Die-hard PC Gamer, History enthusiast, Finnish army reservist (served in 2011). I aim to provide top quality original content of the games I play."
While Logically Facts wasn't independently able to verify if the footage was real or that of a video game, its existence on the internet in 2020 confirms that the video is not connected to the ongoing violence in Manipur.
2. Video showing people looting a store in Philippines falsely linked to Manipur
Another video (archived version) that shows a crowd ransacking a store was shared to claim that Kuki tribals were looting shops owned by Meiteis in Manipur.
The video was shared to falsely claim that it's from Manipur. (Source: Twitter/@Cryptoprecurso)
However, after a reverse image search, we found that the video dates back to February 2023 and is from the Philippines. The video was posted on VICE News' YouTube channel on March 3, 2023. According to the media outlet, the video was recorded on February 24, 2023, and was from "ukay-ukay" thrift store in Lucena City, Philippines. A Filipino news outlet also published the same video.
3. Video shows Kuki members of the Israel Defense Force, not militants in Manipur
We also came across another video (archived link) that showed a group of uniformed men. The video was shared with a claim that the men seen in the video are Kuki militants, and they are abusing Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh.
But on closely observing the video, we noticed that the men are dressed in Israel Defense Forces (IDF) uniforms, as indicated by the Hebrew acronym צה״ל (Tzahal), which stands for "The Army of Defense for Israel."
This can be seen above their shirt pockets. News reports, too, stated that they are Kuki members in the IDF. These Kuki members belong to Bnei Menashe community, who have immigrated to Israel from Manipur and Mizoram.
Though Logically Facts could not independently identify the individuals seen in the viral video, their uniforms clearly show they are Kuki members of the Israel Defense Force and not militants in Manipur.
4. Old image falsely claims to show body of Meitei woman 'raped by Kukis' in Manipur
An image circulating on social media claims to show the body of a Meiti woman allegedly sexually assaulted and murdered by people from the Kuki community. The caption with the image states, "The Indian Army deployed in Manipur are too scared of the immigrants because they have better guns' is what the people have been saying. Meitei Doctors and nurses raped and killed in Manipur and the kuki wearing police uniforms and mass shooting (sic)."
(Note: We have refrained from adding any archive links to the picture due to the distressing nature of the visuals. The photograph below may be triggering for some. Viewer discretion is advised.)
However, Logically Facts found that the photo is from 2022 and shows the body of a young woman, allegedly killed by her parents as they disapproved of her marriage to a man from another caste.
According to officials, the situation in the state has relatively improved since Sunday. However, sporadic incidents of violence were being reported; at least one state police commando was killed, and five others were reportedly injured in a firing by suspected Kuki militants on May 11. In another similar incident one Assam Rifles personnel was injured on May 10.
State Information and Public Relations Minister Sapam Ranjan said over 25,000 people have been evacuated. He added that "tensions are subsiding, except rumors." Following the gruesome violence, reportedly 5,680 people from the violence-hit state have fled to neighboring Assam and Mizoram.