NGOs stoking ethnic tension in Manipur, says Supreme Court panel
NEW DELHI: In its ground situation report on the ethnic conflicts in Manipur, the Supreme Court-appointed committee has accused state NGOs of preventing cremation of 88 bodies preserved in Imphal mortuaries, obstructing acceptance of ex gratia by kin, and attempting to keep the ethnic cauldron boiling.
In its report filed in the SC after its first field visit, the committee, headed by former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Justice Gita Mittal, said 88 of the 94 unclaimed bodies preserved in three mortuaries had been identified but civil society organisations (CSOs) active in the state were “exerting tremendous pressure” on relatives not to accept the bodies. The kin were willing to perform the last rites, it added.
Giving examples of kin ready to accept bodies for last rites, the committee said “some CSOs are opposing and obstructing the performance of last rites by relatives on account of vested interests, and even in order to derive mileage and to compel authorities to meet unwarranted demands”.
“Apprehension was also expressed that there are elements interested in maintaining tension between communities and preventing restoration of peace and harmony in the state. For this reason, true and correct facts of the matter are also not being placed before the Supreme Court (by some of the petitioner NGOs),” the committee said.
It said that the state government, keeping in mind relevant factors, had identified nine places for cremation and burial of the victims of the ethnic violence and allowed the kin to choose any of them.
“Unfortunately, the CSOs are insisting on mass burials at unsuitable spots, which will serve as a source for constant mounting of tension between communities in Manipur and prevent restoration of normalcy,” the report said.
On August 3, the CSOs attempted to illegally perform a mass burial at a government sericulture farm, resulting in thousands of people marching to the site, thus creating a law-and-order situation. Only with the intervention of the central government the event was postponed, it said.
Narrating a distressing method of protest employed by CSOs, the committee said, “A row of about 50 coffins has been placed right opposite the entrance of the office of the deputy commissioner, Churachandpur… This form of protest is a constant source of deep pain and agony for those who have lost their near and dear ones.”
“At the same time, it is extremely demoralizing for state government officials who have been rendering round the clock unstinted service to the displaced populations and making every possible effort for bringing normalcy to their lives. This display of coffins is providing a never-ending instigation of angst and tension for inhabitants of the district,” it said.
The committee requested the SC to direct CSOs not to interfere in the acceptance of ex gratia and bodies by relatives for performance of last rites. It said if the bodies were not accepted by relatives within a specified time, the authorities must be directed to carry out the last rites free of charge as per the Manipur Municipalities Act, 1994.
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