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17 Injured in Manipur Clashes Ahead of Mass Burial

At least 17 people were injured on Thursday during clashes with security forces in Manipur’s Bishnupur and Churachandpur districts ahead of a mass burial of victims killed in the ethnic violence, officials said.

The clashes were reported in Kangvai (Bishnupur) and Phougakchao (Churachandpur).

As a result of the fresh violence, the district authorities of Imphal East and Imphal West have cancelled the curfew relaxations, earlier announced from 5 a.m. in the morning to 8 p.m in the evening.

Before the clashes, the mass burial of 30-35 Kuki-Zomi victims, which was scheduled to take place in Tuibuong, Churachandpur, on Thursday, was postponed after the High Court of Manipur had earlier in the day ordered to maintain status quo at the proposed burial site.

In a letter to theIndigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF) and the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), an umbrella body of the Meitei community, Union Minister Nityanand Rai on Thursday appealed to maintain peace and communal harmony.

“The government of India is seized of the issue of last rites of mortal remains of those killed in ethnic violence in Manipur. The government of India appeals to all concerned to maintain peace and communal harmony and assures that it will spare no efforts to resolve the aforesaid issue amicably to the utmost satisfaction of all parties within a period of seven days,” Rai’s letter said.

The mass burial was announced by ITLF leaders on Wednesday.

“On the request of the Home Ministry, we have postponed the mass burial, but we have placed five demands before the government,” ITLF spokesman Ginza Vualzong told the media.

Thefive demands include legalisation of the burial site in Churachandpur; withdrawal of pro-Meitei state forces from all hill districts “for the safety of the Kuki-Zo communities”; speed up of creation of separate administration (equivalent to separate state) for the tribals; and shifting of tribal jail inmates in Imphal to other states for their safety.

Even before the clashes erupted, tension had been brewing since Thursday morning in Churachandpur, Bishnupur and the adjoining districts as mobs comprising thousands of men and women came out to the streets to block the movement of security forces.

The mobs wanted to go to Tuibuong.

Meitei organisations have strongly opposed the mass burial.

A COCOMI leader said that the “so-called Kuki leaders should not play politics over the dead bodies”.

“Every dead body of the Meitei community was being cremated at their native villages with due respect and recognition by their own near and dear ones. Likewise we expect the Kuki people to follow the same practice in performing the last rites of the dead persons.”

He said that encroaching of the government land is also a violation of laws and burying all together to newly create a mass grave at the abandoned Meitei villages would not only provoke the sentiments of the people in both sides but also remain as a symbol of permanent enmity among the villagers.

“We also request to check the identity of all the dead bodies too before being cremated at their respective village as per the law and confirm their citizenship,” the organisation said in a statement.

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