23 killed in Manipur ethnic conflict laid to rest in Kangpokpi district
Imphal: The last rites of the 23 Kuki-Zo tribals, killed in Manipur’s ethnic violence more than seven months ago, were performed on Friday with thousands of men and women, including their kin, attended the mass burial ceremony in Kangpokpi district.
The 23 deceased, including seven-year-old boy, Tonsing Hangshing and his mother, were finally laid to rest at Martyrs’ Cemetery at Phaijang village, about 20 km from Kangpokpi district headquarters.
Under the theme “You sacrifice your today for our tomorrow”, the mass burial programme was organised by Committee on Tribal Unity (CoTU), Sadar Hills, an apex Kuki civil society organisation in Kangpokpi.
On Thursday, a total of 60 bodies of people belonging to the Kuki-Zo community were flown from Imphal to Churachandpur and Kangpokpi districts by Indian Air Force helicopters.
Similarly, the bodies of four victims belonging to the Meitei community and lying at Churachandpur district hospital morgue since the ethnic conflict erupted on May 3 were also airlifted to Imphal valley for their last rites.
The last rites of remaining bodies would be done in a day or two, a spokesman of the CoTU said.
The airlifting exercises of the bodies which were lying in morgues in Imphal and Churachandpur took place only after the Supreme Court issued a directive last month to the state government for dignified disposal of unclaimed bodies.
According to the officials, of the 64 bodies, 60 bodies were lying in morgues of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) and the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) after the victims killed in the ethnic riot in the first week of May.
The CoTU called a 12-hours total shutdown within Sadar Hills of Kangpokpi on Friday for conducting the funeral services and appealed to the people to cooperate with them.
The Supreme Court had formed a committee in August of three former high court judges — Gita Mittal, Shalini Joshi, and Asha Menon — to look into the investigation, relief, remedial measures, compensation and rehabilitation in violence-devastated Manipur.
Considering the committee’s report, the apex court issued directives for the burial or cremation of those killed in the ethnic violence in Manipur, including the 88 people who were identified but their bodies not claimed by their family members.
The last rites of burial or cremation were to take place in nine sites identified by the Manipur government or the state could go ahead and do the same in accordance with municipal laws.
The ethnic violence broke out in Manipur more than seven months ago after a “Tribal Solidarity March” was organised in the hill districts of the state to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. The ethnic riot between non-tribal Meitei and tribal Kuki communities has so far claimed 182 lives, injured several hundred and displaced more than 70,000 people of both communities.