Ahead of the mass burial of 35 members of the Kuki-Zo community killed in the ethnic violence that broke out on May 3, the Manipur High Court on Thursday directed that the status quo be maintained at the proposed burial site in Haolai Khopi village of Churachandpur district. The HC order was passed by Acting Chief Justice MV Muralidharan after a hearing at 6 am.
Meanwhile, the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), an organisation of the Kuki-Zo community, also agreed to conditionally postpone the burial for five days after requests from Union Home Minister Amit Shah. They said Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga also requested the same.
“We had a marathon meeting last night till 4 am due to a new development. The MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) requested us to delay the burial for five more days and that if we comply with that request, we will be allowed to bury in the same location and the government will legalise the land for the burial. The Mizoram CM had also made a similar request,” the ITLF said, adding, “After long deliberation with various stakeholders late in the night, we have come to a conclusion that we will consider the request of the MHA provided they give us a written assurance on five demands."
Earlier, additional security forces were deployed in the bordering area of the Bishnupur-Churachandpur district boundary in Manipur as another influential body has warned that there would be consequences if the event is held in a Meitei-dominated area. Additional forces from the Rapid Action Force, Assam Rifles, the Central Reserve Police Force, and the Army have been mobilised in the area to prevent violence.
ITLF had earlier this week announced the mass burial on August 3. The body declared that the burial would happen on an open field in S. Boljang village, which falls in the Churachandpur district. While the area falls under the Bishnupur police station, the revenue district is Churachandpur.
On the other hand, the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), an influential civil society group in Imphal, warned of 'unwanted consequences' if the burial took place in Torbung Bangla, a government land in the Meitei-dominated Bishnupur district.
The ITLF, however, said in a statement that “if anyone or any group tries to disrupt the event, they will be responsible for consequences”.
A Kuki community member has said that there are 60 unidentified, disfigured bodies have been lying in two government hospitals in Imphal. However, 10 more have been able to be identified in Imphal, but due to security concerns, the bodies have not been able to be recovered.