Hours ahead of a planned mass burial of 35 Kuki-Zo people killed in violence, a bench of the Manipur High Court led by Acting Chief Justice on Thursday directed the Centre and state government to maintain status quo ante at the proposed burial site in a land belonging to Sericulture directorate near Torbung.
The bench of acting chief justice MV Muralidaran and justice A Guneshwar Sharma after a hearing at 6 am further directed all law enforcement authorities to ensure the maintenance of law and order around the proposed site of burial and directed all parties, including governments, to amicably settle the matter.
The HC also gave liberty to the Kuki-Zo people to approach the authorities for allotment of land for burial within one week.
The HC was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by International Meeteis Forum on August 2, seeking that the burial be stopped as it was being planned on government property.
The matter was mentioned before the bench of acting chief justice, who had assigned the matter to a bench of justice A Bimol and A Guneshwar Sharma.
However, in the morning, justice A Bimol had expressed his personal inconvenience and so the matter had been listed before the acting chief justice.
During the hearing, the state government lawyer mentioned the matter before the acting chief justice at his residence around 5 am. The urgency of the matter was explained and the matter was taken up as an unlisted one considering its nature.
At the hearing, the state government was represented by Deputy AG, H Debendra, the central government was represented by deputy solicitor general of India.
“Taking into consideration the potentiality of aggravating the already volatile law and order situation and the possibility of igniting a fresh wave of violence and bloodshed due to the gathering of a large mob from both communities at the land in question, we are of the considered view that it will be in the public interest to issue directions”, said the HC.
In their PIL petition, the IMF submitted that local authorities had in the last week of July held a meeting with the JPO over the proposed burial site being inappropriate. The Deputy Commissioner said that the site was on land of the Sericulture Department while the Superintendent of Police noted that the site was close to the boundary between Churachandpur and Bishnupur — a buffer zone — and that the burial could create a “negative reactive response from the neighbouring district”.
The petition alleged that the proposed site of burial on the Sericulture Department land was vandalised and cleared out after the meeting was inconclusive, claiming this was done by Kuki-Zo people. The petitioner said that government land belonged to all communities and that it cannot be misappropriated.