New Delhi (Agency): Five months after ethnic violence erupted in Manipur, the State government is in the process of firming up a plan for the disposal of unclaimed bodies. An official record blamed the civil society organisations (CSOs) for causing hindrance in “timely disposal of bodies” by taking decisions on behalf of the relatives of the dead.
As many as 94 bodies are lying unclaimed in mortuaries in government hospitals in Imphal and Churachandpur. Six bodies are yet to be identified.
On October 7, Manipur Chief Secretary Vineet Joshi chaired a meeting with Advocate General Lenin Singh Hijam and other officials to discuss the issue of “identification and disposal of bodies in connection with the ongoing law and order crisis.”
Most unclaimed bodies belong to the Kuki-Zo people from the hill districts. They have been kept in the two Imphal hospitals — Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences and Regional Institute of Medical Sciences.
District officials and the police informed the committee that the families were unable to take an independent decision, as CSOs were deciding on their behalf, causing hindrance to the timely disposal of bodies.
According to the minutes of the meeting, the Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police, Kangpokpi, a hill district, highlighted that earlier the next of kin were willing to take back the bodies but now they have expressed that they will follow the steps taken by the CSOs in matters related to “burial or performance of last rites.”
A representative of the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) from Churachandpur said any Kuki-Zo family that will travel to Imphal may not survive.
“We are planning a mass burial and for this we have requested the Union Home Ministry to transport the bodies from Imphal to the hill districts. We approached the State administration but yet to get any response. The families cannot travel to the valley areas, it is not safe,” said Muan Tombing, General Secretary, ITLF.
The minutes said that as on October 3, “out of 173 bodies, 79 bodies are claimed and disposed, 94 are yet to be claimed and disposed. Out of the 94 unclaimed bodies, six are yet to be identified.” Ethnic violence between the tribal Kuki-Zo and the Meitei people erupted in Manipur on May 3.
It was decided that the cases of “identified and unclaimed bodies” shall be taken up separately from those of “unidentified ones.”
The Superintendents of Police of all districts were asked to inform the next of kin of the deceased and provide them with photographs, details of clothes or any other belongings found on the bodies, any communication made with the CSOs and details of post mortem examination to confirm the identity.
“Consent, will or any plan for burial, disposal of the body along with details of manner and place of burial or performing last rites will be obtained from the next of kin,” the minutes read.
It added that “in case of unidentified dead bodies, officers-in-charge of police stations concerned under the guidance of respective SP to initiate immediate necessary action for disposal of the bodies with due respect as provided under relevant provisions of CrPC, 1973, guidelines framed by the NHRC [National Human Rights Commission], etc. after observation of all necessary formalities.”
It said that the matter of formal public notification regarding disposal of the bodies inviting claims and objections shall be discussed in the next meeting slated for October 11.
Meanwhile, the police identified the person seen in a video that went viral on October 8. The video showed a body being set on fire in a trench.
Kuldiep Singh, security adviser, Manipur government, said that the deceased has been identified as Laldenthanga Khongsai (37), a resident of Kangpokpi district. “His body is lying in the JNIMS. We have requested the case to be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation. It is a sequel of the incident in which two tribal women were paraded naked on May 4 [in Thoubal],” Mr. Singh said.
Mr. Singh added that combing operations have begun to recover the looted weapons as such large number of weapons in the hands of the people was not a good idea as they may end up with miscreants.
He said “the Chief Minister had announced a moratorium of 15 days for returning the weapons. Once the deadline was over we started combing operations by the combined force. The total number of looted weapons is 5,669. We have recovered 1,350 weapons so far.” (Courtesy: The Hindu)