Manipur: 19 Bodies Buried Together in Sadar Hills of Kangpokpi, Haunting Memories of Violence Resurface

The handover of the deceased on December 14 by the government triggered haunting recollections of the violence that transpired between the two communities. Despite this, the Kuki community asserts that they have not yet located the bodies of additional individuals who fell victim to the violence.
Wall of Remembrance in Churachandpur district of Manipur.
Wall of Remembrance in Churachandpur district of Manipur.Pic- Rajan Chaudhary, The Mooknayak

New Delhi- At least 64 bodies of victims from both the Kuki and Meitei communities were finally laid to rest on Thursday in Manipur, marking the culmination of the ongoing ethnic clashes that have gripped the region since May. Officials disclosed that the bodies were shifted from morgues and handed over to grieving families.

Among the solemn procession, 60 bodies of victims from the Kuki community were transported from morgues in Imphal to two hill districts, while four bodies of Meitei victims were moved from a morgue in Churachandpur to the state capital.

After enduring a protracted wait, the bodies, previously housed at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) and the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Imphal, were airlifted to the Kuki-dominated Kangpokpi and Churachandpur districts. The Manipur Police and Assam Rifles orchestrated meticulous security arrangements to ensure the safe transportation.

Wall of Remembrance in Churachandpur district of Manipur.
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Kuki representatives indicated that 41 bodies arrived at the Assam Rifles helipad in Churachandpur in four batches by helicopter until 2:30 pm, with the remaining 19 bodies relocated to Motbung in Kangpokpi. A member of the Committee on Tribal Unity (COTU), a Kuki group in Kangpokpi, shared, "The last rites of the fallen Kuki-Zo brethren will be held Friday at the martyrs’ memorial cemetery at Phaijang village near Motbung."

In response to this solemn occasion, the Kuki group called for a 12-hour total shutdown from 5 am to 5 pm on Friday in Kangpokpi’s Sadar Hills area to honor the funeral services.

Regarding the Meitei victims, Ginza Vualzong, a member of the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), a Kuki organization based in Churachandpur, told The Mooknayak, "The date and place for their burials in Churachandpur remain undecided. In Kangpokpi the 19 Kuki-Zo bodies who were brought from Imphal are buried."

The development follows a November 28 Supreme Court order, compelling the dignified disposal of unclaimed bodies, a decision influenced by recommendations from a three-member panel formed in August to address relief, rehabilitation, and remedial measures in strife-torn Manipur.

In response to the court's directive, the Manipur government issued multiple notifications to victims' families, urging them to claim the bodies for final rites at five designated locations. Of the 169 identified bodies listed by the state government, only 81 were claimed, while 88 bodies remained unclaimed in morgues in JNIMS, RIMS, and the medical college in Churachandpur.

Officials familiar with the matter note that most unclaimed bodies belonged to the Kuki community. Some bodies were kept in the Churachandpur morgue as tribals awaited the arrival of bodies from Imphal before performing burials.

Despite the closure provided by the solemn ceremonies, questions linger about the fate of several victims. A COTU office-bearer expressed concern, stating, "As per our records, there are 45 victims from Kangpokpi, but we have received only 19 bodies. We might not get any more as we suspect the remains of the other victims might have been disposed of by those who killed them."

Amid the somber proceedings, a tragic incident unfolded as a 26-year-old man from the Kuki community, Khaitinmang Baite, was allegedly killed by armed miscreants in Tengnoupal district.

Since May 3, the ethnic violence has claimed the lives of at least 196 people and displaced around 50,000 in Manipur, pitting the numerically dominant Meiteis, residing predominantly in the Valley, against the tribal Kuki community, who hold the majority in several hill districts.

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