Most of the unclaimed bodies in Manipur are of infiltrators: government tells Supreme Court

Solicitor-General says most unclaimed bodies in Manipur are “infiltrators” who “came with a particular design and got killed”; advocate for tribal communities says “118 tribal bodies” have been in Imphal morgue for months

August 01, 2023 08:09 pm | Updated August 02, 2023 06:17 am IST - NEW DELHI

Dozens of houses lay vandalised and burnt during ethnic clashes and rioting in Sugnu, in Manipur. File photo

Dozens of houses lay vandalised and burnt during ethnic clashes and rioting in Sugnu, in Manipur. File photo | Photo Credit: AP

Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, appearing for both the Union and Manipur governments, on August 1 told the Supreme Court that “most of the unclaimed bodies are of infiltrators”.

Also read: Despite Manipur government’s claims, bunkers continue to function in both hills and valley

His remark came towards the end of a half-day-long hearing on the violence in Manipur, before a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud.

One of the parties had cited communication among the higher police authorities in the State about an “influx of infiltrators” from Myanmar, and that many of them were now untraceable.

Ensure justice, says CJI D.Y. Chandrachud

“But at the end of it, the people who were raped and murdered were our people, right? Therefore, we have to ensure that justice is done, that is all,” the Chief Justice laid down the court’s stand.

Mr. Mehta intervened at this point, saying that “most of the unclaimed bodies are those infiltrators... Those who came with a particular design and got killed... I don’t wish to mention anything further and vitiate things...”

However, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves said, “118 tribal bodies are in the morgue in Imphal.” Appearing for tribal communities, he submitted, “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.”

Identification efforts

Turning to the State, the Chief Justice said that the issue needs to be resolved. “These bodies cannot be kept indefinitely in a morgue,” the CJI said.

The court asked the State to detail the efforts it has made so far to identify the bodies. It asked the Manipur government whether there was a nodal officer appointed to ensure that the dead of the people within Manipur were identified and their bodies handed over to relatives.

“Tell us how many bodies have been identified? How many residual bodies are there? What is being done to identify them?” the court asked the State government.

Relief money

Mr. Gonsalves highlighted that the families of victims who were killed in the violence had been promised ₹10 lakh each as part of a compensation package. “They are yet to get this,” he submitted.

A lawyer said that he hoped infiltrators would not take advantage of the relief money.

“Ultimately, like in every scheme, for compensation, the beneficiaries are first identified. They have to meet certain yardsticks,” the Chief Justice told the lawyer.

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