UN experts condemned Monday the Indian government's "slow and inadequate response" to reported serious rights violations, including sexual violence, amid deadly ethnic clashes in the country's remote northeast.
"We have serious concerns about the apparent slow and inadequate response by the Government of India, including law enforcement, to stem physical and sexual violence and hate speech in Manipur," they said in a statement.
The nearly 20 independent United Nations rights experts, including the Special Rapporteurs on violence against women and girls and on torture, responded to the abuses reported since clashes broke out in Manipur in May.
Reports indicated that by mid-August, around 160 people had been killed and 300 others injured in the violence, they said, also pointing to tens of thousands of people displaced, thousands of homes and hundreds of churches burnt down and farmland destroyed.
In particular, the experts said they were "appalled by the reports and images of gender-based violence targeting hundreds of women and girls of all ages, and predominantly of the Kuki ethnic minority".
"The alleged violence includes gang rape, parading women naked in the street, severe beatings causing death, and burning them alive or dead," they said.
The experts, who are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council but who do not speak on behalf of the United Nations, said they were especially concerned "that the violence seems to have been preceded and incited by hateful and inflammatory speech".
Such hate speech, spread online and offline, had been used "to justify the atrocities committed against the Kuki ethnic minority, particularly women, on account of their ethnicity and religious belief", they said.
Manipur has been fractured along ethnic lines, with rival militias setting up blockades to keep out members of the opposing community.
Tens of thousands of additional soldiers have been rushed from elsewhere to patrol towns and highways, and a curfew and internet shutdown remain in force across Manipur.