The identities of the 13 Meitei men who were found dead after a gunfight near the Myanmar border in Manipur have been established following an autopsy in Imphal, The Hindu reported on Wednesday.
The bodies riddled with bullet wounds were found in Manipur’s Tengnoupal district on Monday, Superintendent of Police Luikham Lanmiyo had told Scroll.
The bodies were found in Leithu village, which is dominated by the Kuki-Zomi community. Security forces reached the spot after they heard gunshots around 10.30 am, an Army official told Scroll. However, they did not find any weapons with the bodies.
Most of those found dead were teenagers belonging to different parts of Meitei-dominated districts in Imphal valley, The Hindu reported. At least two of the men were living in relief camps that have been set up in view of the ethnic conflict between the Kuki and the Meitei communities that started in early May.
This is the first instance of violence to be reported from Leithu village. In other parts of the state, the conflict has left 175 dead, according to the police records, and displaced nearly 60,000 people.
While the Kukis are in majority in the state’s hill districts, the Meiteis dominate the Imphal valley.
The families of the 13 Meitei men have said that they do not know under what circumstances the deceased had reached the location, The Indian Express reported.
The newspaper quoted Thingom Rosy, the sister of 25-year-old Thingom Rocky Singh, one of those found dead, as saying that their family has been living in the relief camp in Thangmeiband in Imphal West district after the violence erupted in early May in Torbung. Torbung is located on the border of Meitei-dominated Bishnupur and Kuki-dominated Churachandpur district.
Rosy was quoted as saying that her brother left soon after they shifted to the relief camp and the family had not been aware of his whereabouts since.
“He sought blessing from my mother to be victorious and fight for our motherland before leaving,” she said. “We spoke over the phone several days back; he said that he wanted to meet me and mother.”
Moirangthem Chaoba said that her 39-year-old brother Moirangthem Kingson Singh had left home two days before the gunfight. Chaoba said her brother would usually stay away from home in Imphal East to volunteer and help people in need. She said that the family was shocked to know that Kingson was among those killed in the gunfight.
“I prayed that my brother wasn’t part of the group,” she said. “Unfortunately, our worst nightmare came true after we visited the morgue. I was speechless and shocked after seeing his body.”
Oinam Ratan, the brother of 43-year-old Oinam Loken Singh, another Meitei man killed in the incident, said that he had left home a week ago. Oinam Loken Singh used to do odd jobs and would take part in “community activities”, Ratan said.
On Tuesday, hundreds of Meiteis gathered at a hospital in Imphal in protest the deaths of the 13 men. Business establishments were shut down following a call from women-led Meiti group Meira Paibis.
The families and community groups have decided to bury the deceased in Andro village, The Indian Express reported.