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Lamka's martyrs in a refrigerator

  • Lamka, Manipur, martyrs, tribe, land, Imphal, Churachandpur, refrigerator, bills, protest

    A calm valley from afar, Churachandpur town, or Lamka as its residents call it, is in mourning. It is the headquarter of Churachandpur district in Manipur. Home to people of the Kuki-Zomi tribe who are predominantly Christian. The town is merely two hours from the capital of the state, Imphal. The church bells have been silent in the town for months now. Nitin Sethi

  • Lamka, Manipur, martyrs, tribe, land, Imphal, Churachandpur, refrigerator, bills, protest

    Martyrs in a refrigerator—for more than 230 days. Nine young people were killed on August 31-September 1, 2015. Six were shot dead by the police. Three died of burns and injuries. The youngest one shot dead by police was 10. His name was Khaizamang. Now they lie in the morgue refrigerator. The families and the town have refused to bury their dead in protest. Nitin Sethi

  • Lamka, Manipur, martyrs, tribe, land, Imphal, Churachandpur, refrigerator, bills, protest

    They were protesting against three bills cleared by the Manipur State Assembly that they believe will take away their lands and rightS. Some people had torched the houses of local MLAs who they believed had not protected the rights of the tribal in the hills. Earlier the dead were kept on ice slabs with bottle gourd to kill the stench. The local administration finally bought a refrigerator for the bodies. Nitin Sethi

  • Lamka, Manipur, martyrs, tribe, land, Imphal, Churachandpur, refrigerator, bills, protest

    A mild stench still escapes the metal sheet covered coffins when they are occasionally taken out of the freezer. Outside the morgue, the town mourns. And seethes in anger. Nitin Sethi

  • Lamka, Manipur, martyrs, tribe, land, Imphal, Churachandpur, refrigerator, bills, protest

    Nine empty coffins just outside the morgue serve now as a memorial to the young Martyrs of the community. Nitin Sethi

  • Lamka, Manipur, martyrs, tribe, land, Imphal, Churachandpur, refrigerator, bills, protest

    Families of the deceased gather every day at the memorial. There is anger in the voices, "We have given our children to the community," one says. The city is dotted with sites of protest and prayers for the dead. Posters and reminders can be found all over. Nitin Sethi

  • Lamka, Manipur, martyrs, tribe, land, Imphal, Churachandpur, refrigerator, bills, protest

    The anger gives in to grief as families tell the stories of their dead. The energy of anger gives in to the grief and bereavement as memories are scratched at. "It hurts. But we have to tell the stories or the world will not know what is happening here," one mother of a dead son says. Nitin Sethi

  • Lamka, Manipur, martyrs, tribe, land, Imphal, Churachandpur, refrigerator, bills, protest

    The youth and women groups now lead the movement in Lamka along with other civil society group. The Churches support the transformation in society. "We are not just against the bills passed by the Manipur assembly. We are also against our own corrupt leaders," says one student leader. Nitin Sethi

  • Lamka, Manipur, martyrs, tribe, land, Imphal, Churachandpur, refrigerator, bills, protest

    More than 230 days after the firing, while the bodies await burial, mobilisation across the society is at fever pitch. At late night gathering across town, leaders demand justice as footage is shown of how some of the unarmed young ones were killed by the local police in firing. Nitin Sethi

  • Lamka, Manipur, martyrs, tribe, land, Imphal, Churachandpur, refrigerator, bills, protest

    The meetings go on late into the night. The groups demand sixth schedule status of their district to provide it special developmental and land protection rights against influx of people away from the valley. They also collect donations at times for the 14 km highway to Mizoram and Myanmar that the community is building on its own. Nitin Sethi

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