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Dead bodies of Kuki-Zo tribals lying unclaimed in Imphal morgues

Aizawl: Atleast 49 lifeless bodies of Kuki-Zo tribals, who lost their lives during the ethnic violence in Manipur earlier this year, still remain unclaimed in morgues across the Meitei-dominated Imphal valley. Since the violence erupted on May 3, 2023, the families of these victims have been unable to provide them with a proper farewell.

During a press conference in Aizawl, Albert Renthlei, the convenor of the recently established Zo United, revealed that the Manipur government had issued a notification to the relatives of the deceased, urging them to claim the bodies. Failing to do so, the bodies may face disposal.

Renthlei expressed concerns of tribal leaders and the deceased’s relatives regarding their safety in the current turbulent situation, which has made traveling to Imphal, the state capital, too dangerous.

“There is no way for us, or for their families, to safely journey to Imphal and claim the deceased bodies amidst the current perilous circumstances,” he said.

According to Zo United’s data, the highest number of unclaimed bodies, a total of 28, are currently housed at RIMS morgue in Imphal, with an additional 16 at JNIMS’ morgue. Four bodies are located at the Bishnupur morgue, and one more at the Thoubal morgue. An additional 12 bodies remain unaccounted for, as their locations are yet to be ascertained.

The Kuki-Zo community has suffered a total death toll at 144, of which 32 have been laid to rest, and six individuals are still missing and presumed to be dead.

In addition to the violence, 41 people have lost their lives due to various diseases in relief camps, as reported by the Zo United leader.

The extent of the devastation becomes all too clear when considering that 203 Kuki-Zo villages have been reduced to ashes, along with 8,166 houses that belonged to the community. In the wake of the turmoil, a total of 266 churches, 94 church quarters, and numerous church offices have been burnt to the ground, Renthlei said.

Zo United, an alliance of all Kuki-Zo tribes residing in Manipur hill districts, was formed in September in Aizawl, under the coordination of the Mizoram NGOs’ Coordination Committee.

Renthlei emphasised that the main purpose of their press conference was to formally extend gratitude to the people, the state government, and all the NGOs and churches in Mizoram for their unwavering support during this period of crisis. 

The Kuki-Zo community remains steadfast in their efforts to recover, rebuild, and seek justice for the victims of this tragic ethnic conflict, he said.

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