Imphal: Solicitor General Tushar Mehta recently claimed in the Supreme Court that most of the bodies still in morgues in Manipur are of “infiltrators”. Mehta is representing both the Union and the state government in the Supreme Court in matters pertaining to the ethnic conflict. Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the High Court Bar Association of Manipur, submitted that the influx of undocumented immigrants from Myanmar was a major factor contributing to the unrest in Manipur.
Neither the SG nor Kumar provided any evidence for these allegations. The Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum issued a statement soon after Mehta’s claim, condemning his words. “Is Mr. Mehta suggesting that “infiltrators” were roaming freely in Imphal until May 3, 2023? Were they plucked out from the general population with precision by rampaging mobs, while all tribal Indian citizens were left untouched? Were state agencies helping the mobs identify the “infiltrators”?” the statement asked.
A member of the ITLF, Ginza Vualzong, told The Wire, “Those killed in Imphal are not infiltrators but legitimate Indian citizens who are government employees, university students, senior citizens, mothers and children.”
In a statement demanding the withdrawal of Mehta’s remarks, the UNAU Tribal Forum, Delhi, said, “Such a loose and unfounded remark from the solicitor general of India is unbecoming (of him), unacceptable and abhorrent. It is deeply hurtful to the families of the dead, who till today, are unable to perform the last rites of their loved ones.”
If the SG is to be believed, it would mean that all the bodies of Kukis and Meiteis from Manipur who have been killed in the violence that began on May 3 have been claimed. However, during our reporting from Manipur and in conversation with families who have lost their kin, The Wire had been repeatedly told that Kukis have been unable to claim their relatives’ bodies from Imphal’s RIIMS and JNIMS Hospital, as they are unable to travel to Meitei-dominated Imphal because of the security situation. Similarly, Meiteis are having trouble travelling to hill areas.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing on behalf of the tribal communities petitioning the Supreme Court on the matter, had categorically stated that there were 118 bodies of tribal people lying in the morgues of Imphal. “The bodies are unidentified for months. They are rotting; we cannot go there to identify them. No attempt is being made to help us identify.” The court had also asked the SG to inquire with the government on the provisions of compensation to those affected and to report to it the proposed mechanism for determining the amount and its disbursement, as well identifying beneficiaries.
After the SG’s shocking remarks at the Supreme Court on August 1, which supported the Manipur chief minister’s press statements that the Kuki community has been harbouring undocumented Myanmar immigrants and infiltrators, The Wire visited all the valley-based districts of the northeastern state to collect data on the bodies lying at different hospitals. In the seven districts The Wire visited, 152 deaths had been reported. Of these, only 22 bodies are officially ‘unidentified’ – of which The Wire has been able to determine the identity of three deceased.
In the Meitei-dominated areas, bodies of Kuki victims are still in hospital morgues despite being identified. This is as families are unable to travel. In Kuki-dominated districts of Churachandpur and Kangpokpi, similarly, Meitei victims’ bodies remain in hospital morgues despite being identified as their families have been unable to come and claim them.
Here is what this correspondent has been able to confirm from official sources across districts:
– Total number of dead bodies: 30
– Identified bodies: 21 (7 belonging to the Kuki community, 14 to Meitei)
– Unidentified bodies: 9
– Out of the 21 identified bodies, seven families have received compensation, and three are women.
– Total number of dead bodies: 28
– Identified bodies: 21 (17 belonging to the Kuki community, 4 to Meitei)
– Unidentified bodies: 7
– The government has not been able to trace the family of one the identified deceased persons
The 21 identified deceased persons are: Veinem Chongloi, Helam Chongloi, Paolalmoun Haokip, Lunginlal, David Lhanghal, Thangginlun Lupheng, Ningthoujam Dijen Singh, Lamminlal Khongsai, Thongjathang Haokip, Thanghoulal, Phuritsaban Khamba, Haominthang Chongloi, Maisnam Amusana, Satgoukai Singsit, Goulalsang, Gouzabung, Angom Basanta, Leithangbam Noren Singh, Melody Vaiphei, Jangminlun Khongsai and Hekim Chongloi.
The list for Imphal West states that the seven unidentified could possibly be the following people, though the police has been unable to confirm this: Khuplungthang Zou, Letminthang Sontak Haokip, Letminching Haokip, Hangzo Debora, Toshing Hangshing, Meena Hangshing and Lydia Lourembam.
Three of these names – Letminthang Sontak Haokip, Letminching Haokip and Meena Hangshing – match with a list of deceased prepared by the Kuki Students’ Organisation (KSO). Letminthang is from T Munnomjang village, Chandel district. Letminching Haokip is from Songphal village, Ukhrul, and Meena is from Kangchup village, Kanggui.
The Manipur police has so far been unable to trace the family of Lamminlal Khongsai. He is a resident of Langol village in Chandel district, according to the KSO’s list of deceased.
– Total number of dead bodies: 4
– All bodies are identified, with 3 belonging to the Kuki community.
Deceased identified as Nengkholun Vaiphei, Soitinkam Vaiphei, Laldinthanga and Habujam Ronaldo.
For all three of the Kuki victims, the state has released Rs 5 lakh each for their next of kin. The file on the one Meitei victim, Habujam Ronaldo, is pending with the home department. None of the four families have received any compensation from the Union government so far.
– Total number of dead bodies: 20 (including 1 BSF jawan)
– Identified bodies: 15 (including 11 Meitei)
– Unidentified bodies: 4
The Wire was unable to receive a complete list of the identified deceased in Kakching, but a source confirmed the names of 12 of the 15 people: Khoirom Romario Meitei, Yumlembam Shiva Singh, Heigrujam Robisana Singh, Khangembam Anand Prasad Singh, Sorokhaibam Ibetombi Devi, Thokchom Kiran Singh, Mayengbam keronjit Meitei, Ningthoujam Momocha, Ningthoujam Gandhi Singh, Laishram Binod Singh, Athokpam Muhindro Meitei and BSF jawan Ranjit Yadav.
– Total number of dead bodies: 20
– Identified bodies: 19 (6 belonging to the Kuki community, 13 to Meitei)
– Unidentified bodies: 2
The identified bodies belong to: Biyash Ningthoujam, Jangmilun Khongsai, Ginkhohen Haokip, Kamminlun Khongsai, Dallanthang Suantak, Heisnam Jiten Singh, Khoirom Meiraba Meitei, Toijam Chandramani Singh, Amom Yaiphaba Meitei, Khumanthem Kenedy Singh, Thokchom Naotomba SIngh, Yengkhom Pishak Singh, Ningthoujam Iton Singh, Haobam Ibocha Meitei, Ningombam Ibomcha Meitei, Naorem Rajkumar Singh, Mayengram Ricky Meitei, Pukhran Ranbir and David Tuolor.
Seven people have also been reported missing in Bishnupur: Thongam Shyam Singh, Leichombam Suraj, Naorem Prakash Singh, Ninghthoujam, Meisnam Malemnganba, Gurumayum Bony, Pukhrambam Abinash Singh
– Total number of dead bodies: 39
– All bodies are identified, with 35 belonging to the Kuki community and 4 to Meitei.
– Total number of dead bodies: 11
– All bodies are identified, with 5 belonging to the Kuki community and 6 to Meitei.
According to the last updated data from the Government of Manipur on August 5, the total deaths count is at 142. However, data received by The Wire from the districts mentioned above makes it a total of 152 deaths. The government has identified bodies of 130 of these people, and 22 remain unidentified. Of those 22, The Wire has identified three – so the new number from the unidentified we can confirm is 19.
The KSO too has been gathering a list of the people killed in ethnic violence in Manipur since May 3, focusing on people from the Kuki community. Their list states that 136 Kukis have died so far, out of which 23 are women. The list was last updated on July 27.
The Solicitor General said in court that the unidentified and unclaimed bodies belong to “infiltrators” from Myanmar. General secretary of the KSO D.J. Haokip told The Wire, “The KSO is ready to verify all the bodies in Imphal’s morgue with their Aadhaar cards and all the relevant documents” if provided with security. He also stated that most of those killed were government employees, and asked how alleged foreigners could have got government jobs in India. Haokip said Mehta is misinformed and demanded that the KSO be provided with security to enter Imphal to verify the bodies.
The government last updated its data in July, and the current numbers could be different, but the names received from sources in different districts of Manipur matches the list that the KSO shared with The Wire.
The data also shows that only a few families have received compensation so far – and that too only the state government’s share. Union home minister Amit Shah had promised that each family would get Rs 10 lakh – Rs 5 lakh from the Centre and Rs 5 lakh from the state – but so far no one has received the Union government’s share.