Making unethical and unfounded remarks against his adversaries and political enemies and always being in the denial mode, have been the chief traits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Obviously, the submissions of the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, before the Supreme Court, on behalf of the Modi government, in the matter of disposal of the unclaimed bodies in Manipur, reflected this characteristic.
In an exhibition of utter insensitivity and lack of concern even for the corpses lying untaken at the morgues, Mehta, instead of confessing that the bodies were of Indians, told the court that most of the unclaimed bodies of the ethnic violence belong to those of so-called “infiltrators”. This single-line submission from SG Mehta has left the people of Manipur, especially Kuki women, devastated. 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”.
What basic information or proof he had with him to make this insolent remark is yet to feature on records. Being the highest legal officer of the government, he ought to have maintained some element of restraint in his observations. His remark has hurt the women of Manipur to such an extent that probably for the first time in judicial history, women’s organisation of the Kuki-Hmar-Zomi community of Manipur has demanded the withdrawal of a remark made by Mehta in the Supreme Court.
In yet another statement, the UNAU Tribal Women’s Forum, Delhi-NCR, said that the mothers of the Kuki-Hmar-Zomi community of Manipur, represented by the group, are “deeply hurt and appalled” by the remarks made by the Solicitor General in the Supreme Court on August 1. “Such a loose and unfounded remark from the solicitor general of the country is unbecoming, unacceptable and abhorrent. It is deeply hurtful to the families of the dead who, till today, are unable to perform the last rites of their loved ones,” the group said in its statement.
The sense of acute hatred towards the Christian Kukis that grips Prime Minister Modi and his aides is also manifest in the averseness of the state government officials to hand over the bodies to the relatives who are running from pillar to post for taking the bodies home to conduct the last rites. While the bodies are lying in Imphal, the bereaved families are unable to access the bodies due to the prevailing security situation in which “they will face certain death” if they were to try and retrieve the bodies. The women’s body, Kuki-Hmar-Zomi community, has been making repeated calls for the bodies to be brought to Churachandpur, but to “no effect”.
The Manipuris are aggrieved at SG Mehta and government officials over their calling the murdered Indian citizens “infiltrators or illegal migrants” without furnishing adequate proof. According to them, it is a serious matter and “it is tantamount to lying and misleading the court, and does not behove someone holding the office of the second highest law office of the country”. Mehta had come out with this remark after CJI had observed: “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.”
However, PM Modi’s absolute apathy towards the victims, his refusal to visit the state and even refusal to console the sufferers, has shocked and alienated the tribals and Kukis of the state. SG Mehta’s obnoxious remark has simply added salt to their injuries, and they have demanded the dreadful comment be rescinded.
What has hurt them the most is that while PM Modi has not initiated any measures to protect their dignity and modesty, his government has not even expressed willingness to give a minimal humanitarian treatment to the deceased souls. In a statement, the UNAU Tribal Women’s Forum, Delhi-NCR, said the mothers of the Kuki-Hmar-Zomi community of Manipur, represented by the group, are “deeply hurt and appalled” by the remarks made by the solicitor general in the Supreme Court on August 1.
Moreover, the unfounded claim by SG Tushar Mehta has even put the Border Security Force (BSF) on the mat. Guarding the India-Myanmar border is the BSF’s responsibility. Entry of such large number of illegal infiltrators puts a question mark on the efficacy and competence of the BSF. And, if that indeed is the case, then the Union home ministry, which is the boss of the BSF, must come out with a detailed clarification as to how such a huge number of infiltrators managed to enter Indian territory despite strong police presence.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves told the Supreme Court that 118 bodies were lying unidentified in a morgue in Imphal for months. “They are rotting. We cannot go there to identify them. No attempt is being made to help us identify”, Golsalves said. At this, CJI Chandrachud said: “You can’t keep 118 bodies indefinitely in a morgue”. The court asked SG Mehta to inform it how many bodies have been identified and how many remain to be ascertained.
Some local reports say most of the deceased were victims of custodial death. In one such case, an FIR was registered on 25th May but no action has been initiated to date to investigate the death of the victim who was in the custody of the Manipur police in Imphal from the day of his arrest. So much for the right to freedom of speech in the world’s largest democracy.
It reflects poorly on the functioning of the home ministry and the state government that after three months into the ethnic violence in Manipur, at least 53 dead bodies – mostly all belonging to the Kuki community – are still lying unclaimed at two district hospitals in Imphal East and West. Also, three or four bodies of persons belonging to the Meitei community remain unclaimed at a Churachandpur facility.
There is no denying the fact that Modi government has abandoned both the dead and the living beings of Manipur. It remains to be seen what action the Supreme Court initiates against the politicians, the rulers, the officials and the police officials responsible for showing crass disrespect to the deceased souls.
The atrocious attitude displayed by the Manipur police, their abysmal failure to protect the human rights of those arrested and against whom the chargesheet is yet to be filed, belies how they have been turned into foot soldiers of Hindutva bigotry. Manipur Chief Minister Biren Singh justifying the horrendous violence under the guise of war on “narco-terrorists” and “illegal migrants” further underscores police complicity and their partisan attitude towards Kukis. In Manipur, neither the chief minister nor the police adhered to the provisions of Constitution.
Two such glaring incidents relate to the death of Dallamthang Suntak and Lalremruot Pulamte. They had sought protection in the Moirang police station on their way from Imphal to Churachandpur in the late evening on 3rd May. Unfortunately, even before police acted they were lynched by the mob. Fears are being expressed that they were handed over to the mob by the Police (like they did to the women victims of a viral video that brought out the horror of the gendered violence), it is hard to know the truth. What is really shocking is the deafening silence from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which has otherwise been quite proactive in pulling up the opposition-led governments, but did not raise its voice or initiated suo-motu inquiry into these abhorrent incidents. (IPA Service)