Why in the News?
- Justice Gita Mittal committee has submitted its interim report to the Supreme Court, in reference to the violence that broke out in Manipur in May, 2023.
What’s in Today’s Article?
- Background (Violence in Manipur, Reasons)
- About Justice Gita Mittal Committee (Motive, Key Findings)
- On 3 May 2023, ethnic violence erupted in Manipur between the Meitei people, a majority that lives in the Imphal Valley, and the Kuki-Zo tribal community from the surrounding hills.
- Violent clashes broke out after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the 10 hill districts on May 3 to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
- The immediate reason for this violence, however, is a Manipur High Court order directing the state government to recommend to the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry by May 29, an ST tag for the community.
- The petitioners have argued that this community had once enjoyed the ST tag prior to the merger of Manipur with the Indian Union and have sought the restoration of this status.
- The march was organised by Nagas and Kuki tribals after the Manipur High Court asked the state government last month to send a recommendation to the Centre within four weeks on the demand for ST status by the Meitei community.
- According to government figures, more than 175 people have been killed in the violence.
- State records show that 94 bodies are lying unclaimed in the three big mortuaries in the state – JNIMS and RIMS in Imphal, and the Churachandpur District Hospital.
- The violence left more than 70,000 people displaced from their homes.
About Justice Gita Mittal Committee:
- In August 2023, the Supreme Court had appointed a three-member committee, headed by former Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal, to examine the humanitarian aspects of the ethnic violence in Manipur.
- The committee of three former women high court judges was authorised to submit their reports directly to the Supreme Court.
- The panel submitted its thirteenth interim report to the Supreme Court recently.
Major Findings of the Committee:
- The panel has suggested that victims’ relatives should be directed to perform the last rites, failing which the Manipur government should do so instead.
- The question of claiming and disposing of the bodies has been one of the most sensitive and contentious issues in the ongoing conflict.
- In its report, the panel is learnt to have said that relatives of the victims are under pressure from civil society organisations not to accept the bodies for last rites.
- It has said that these organisations are opposing and obstructing the performance of last rites due to “vested interests” and to compel state authorities to meet “unwarranted” demands.
- The report states that civil society organisations are insisting on “unsuitable spots” for collective burial, which would serve as a source of “constant mounting tensions” between the two communities.
- The committee has asked the Supreme Court to direct the next of kin to claim the bodies and perform the last rites.
- Failing this, the committee has also urged the court to “prohibit” civil society organisations from interfering with or obstructing the performance of last rites.