The bodies of sixty people who lost their lives amid ethnic and religious violence in the state of Manipur in India have been returned to their families.
The victims were killed in May after violence erupted between the predominantly Hindu Meitei community and their minority Christian Kuki neighbours. The charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) says its sources report that the delay in returning the bodies to relatives was because of security concerns over moving the bodies of one community through an area where another community is in the majority. The state government took the decision to airlift the bodies to avoid any further conflict.
In November, India’s Supreme Court ordered that the bodies be given a dignified burial, however the majority remain unclaimed amid reports of relatives facing pressure from civil society organisations not to accept them.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said:
“CSW remains deeply saddened by the loss of lives over the past seven months in Manipur, however we are grateful to the Supreme Court for ordering the release of the bodies of the deceased. This will allow families who have lost loved ones to carry out the last rites and bury their dead in peace, and we hope it marks a step towards closure.”
CSW says 153 members of the Kuki community were killed in the violence, with over 45,000 displaced. Over 200 villages, 7,000 houses and 360 places of worship have been burned since violence erupted, after what Kuki people say began as a peaceful protest in Manipur on 3 May.