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HomemanipurBodies of 87 Kuki-Zo victims of violence buried in Manipur's Churachandpur with...

Bodies of 87 Kuki-Zo victims of violence buried in Manipur's Churachandpur with 'gun salute'

Guwahati: The bodies of 87 victims of Manipur violence, belonging to Kuki-Zo communities, were laid to rest in a mass burial on Wednesday in the Churachandpur district as thousands paid their last tributes and “village volunteers” paid a ‘gun salute’ to the deceased.

The victims included Baby Isaac, a one-month-old baby who died on May 11 and eight women. The rest of the victims were aged between 18 and 87 years, said a list of the victims released by Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), a forum of the Kuki-Zo organisations in Churachandpur.

Thousands of villagers and family members gathered at the Peace Ground at Tuibuong where the final tributes were paid and the bodies were later buried in the Kuki-Zo Martyrs’ Cemetery at Sehken. The Joint Philanthropic Organisation looked after the arrangement with the help of other organisations and students’ bodies representing the Kuki-Zo communities.

Sorrow and anger dominated the atmosphere as the bodies were lined up for burial, while the villagers, many clad in traditional attires, sat around the coffins. The cries of family members permeated the air. The “village volunteers,” who have been guarding the Kuki-Zo villagers and towns in the hills, fired from their country-made ‘licenced’ guns to pay a ‘gun salute’ to the deceased.

“The volunteers prepared the 87 graves in the morning using pickaxes to dig into the rocky ground, preferring hands over machines to show their respect to the martyrs,” the ITLF said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

While most bodies were laid to rest with Christian rituals, a Messianic ritual was performed for three victims. A Jewish ritual was also performed for one victim, who followed Judaism, the ITLF said.

Those who spoke at the event pledged to fight for protection of the Kuki-Zo people and their rights in Manipur. Some Kuki-Zo leaders from organisations from neighbouring Mizoram such as the influential Central Young Mizo Association also attended the function and addressed those who gathered in the ground.

The Kuki-Zo people have been demanding a “separate administration” for them in Manipur, while “unification” of the Zo-dominated areas, comprising Mizoram, parts of Manipur and neighbouring Myanmar has been their long cherished dream.

Most of those who were buried on Wednesday had died in May and June but the bodies had remained in the morgue in Kuki-dominated Churachandpur and Meitei-dominated Imphal, the state capital. At least 41 bodies of Kuki-Zo people were airlifted from Imphal to Churachandpur on December 14 after the Supreme Court issued an order on November 28 for their dignified last rites. Another 46 bodies were already there in the Churachandpur hospital morgue. On December 15, last rites of 19 bodies, also belonging to Kuki-Zo communities, were similarly buried in Kangpokpi, another Kuki-dominated district.

Nearly 200 people have been killed and 60,000 others displaced due to the clashes between the Kukis and the Meiteis in Manipur. The violence, which broke out on May 3, resulted in an ethnic divide with the Kukis fleeing the Meitei-dominated Imphal Valley while the Meiteis fled the hills.

(Published 20 December 2023, 14:39 IST)

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