More than three weeks of violence persist in Manipur with the first outbreak on May 3, the violent clashes have claimed at least 75 lives amongst which most of the dead bodies lay unclaimed in various mortuaries across the state. Hospital officials have informed that even the few bodies which were identified were not claimed by the families of the deceased due to various reasons. This has led to hospitals running out of space.
Most of the adversaries of the violence were taken to the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal, East and the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal West, these being the two big hospitals of the state.
Security adviser to the chief minister of Manipur, Kuldeep Singh mentioned on May 22 that only five bodies have been claimed by the families.
Out of the 19 bodies brought by security personnel since the start of the clashes, to the mortuary at Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences, none of the bodies have been claimed even after the post-mortems have been completed. Following a similar pattern, many bodies remain unclaimed at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences. Kirankumar Singh, the Imphal West Deputy Commissioner stated that there have been 20 bodies from the district out of which only one has been claimed so far.
Mr Singh said that about 9 to 10 bodies were identifiable as certain identifiers like Aadhaar cards were found. The rest of the bodies are still unidentified. The reason behind such a situation might be because many people have moved out of the city and the residents of the hill districts might not be able to come and identify the bodies of their relatives.
The district hospital in Churachandpur, which is one of the worst-hit districts in the state has 24 bodies in the mortuary of which all of them remain unclaimed. The hospital thereby holds bodies twice the capacity of the mortuary, which can hold only 12 bodies at a time.
However, the developments at the Churachandpur Hospital are different from that in Imphal. A doctor at the Surat Churachandpur Hospital explains that out of the 24 bodies, 20 are of the tribals and have been identified by their respective families and the other 4 bodies are from the Meitei community.
But despite the identification of the tribal bodies, they have not been claimed by their families as the Indigenous Tribal Leader’s Forum (ITLF) has asked them not to do so. The ITLF reasons that many bodies from their community lie in the hospitals in Imphal and they are therefore not ready to perform the last rites. The ITLF leader has said that they want to have a common ceremony of the last rites on one day for all the martyrs, and thus, are waiting for those bodies to return home.
A minister in the Manipur government who wished to remain anonymous said that owing to the volatile situation, the state was refraining from disposing of the bodies.
Since the violence broke out, the boundaries between the Kuki-Zomi-dominated areas and the Meitei-dominated areas in the state have more intensely solidified, with most of the Kuki-Zomi people who were in the valley going to the hills and vice-versa. The clashes between the two groups began on May 3 after the All-Tribal Students Union Manipur held a ‘tribal solidarity march’ to protest against the Meitei demand for scheduled tribe status.
There were long-held aggravations in the Kuki-dominated regions against various activities of the state government, including interferences in poppy plantations and eviction drives and allegations that foreigners from Myanmar were given shelter by the Kukis of Churachandpur.