Manipur: School students in Moreh sit-in, demand regular classes
The predominantly Kuki student population of the border town (with Myanmar) demand their right to an education from the PM and the govt
A large number of school students took to the streets on Saturday, 27 January, staging a sit-in in conflict-ridden Manipur's Moreh town, demanding resumption of regular classes.
Moreh lies along the India–Myanmar border in Tengnoupal district.
The town has been grappling with intense firing since the eruption of the ongoing ethnic conflict in the restive state on 3 May 2023, resulting in the destruction of thousands of homes and shops, thousands of people fleeing the border town, and many deaths, casualties and injuries of both residents and deployed security forces.
Expressing their concern over the impact of the ongoing conflict on their education, the students—predominantly from the non-Meitei communities, particularly the Kuki tribes—took to the streets with placards bearing slogans such as "Education is our birthright"," We want re-opening of schools" and "Remove police commando so that we can go to school".
'There was a deliberate attempt to destroy the educational institution by burning three high schools in Moreh town,' the students, from 36 government and private schools in Moreh, claimed in a submission.
They alleged that the state government and the CDO (the Manipur Police commando units) were complicit in jeopardising their future.
A non-Meitei resident, speaking over the phone from Moreh, clarified that on 17 January, three high schools in Moreh were completely destroyed when a rocket-propelled grenade struck the schools.
Meanwhile, Meitei residents of Moreh, currently residing in relief camps in Thoubal district after their homes were torched, claimed the school students are being used as pawns to further the demand for the removal of state forces and commandos from the border town under the guise of educational concerns. "Their agenda is to lobby for the removal of the state forces, particularly the commandos, and grab our Meitei lands after they have razed our houses to the ground," alleged S. Manglem, a displaced resident.
It should be noted that the forested areas of Manipur are protected lands, and many observers believe the core of the ethnic conflict is related to the right of land use (which is granted, in specific protected areas, to the Scheduled Tribes). The Meiteis have been demanding to be recognised as STs, like the Kuki and Naga tribes, which would grant them access to these protected lands.
Allegedly in response to heightened attacks on security personnel in Moreh, leading to the death of two jawans (both of Meitei identity), the state government has established a strategic post in the town.
Security advisor to the state government Kuldiep Singh said that the special commando unit in Moreh has been moved to a more strategic location, enhancing their ability to respond to militant attacks effectively.
Manipur's director general of police, Rajiv Singh, interacting with the media, said the security arrangements in Moreh include a joint coordination committee of the combined security forces, including Manipur Police, the Border Security Forces (BSF) and the Assam Rifles. He said strategic and tactical details could not be disclosed in detail due to their sensitive nature.
"The situation at Moreh is moving towards normalcy, and it will improve with the cooperation of the public and leaders from both communities," asserted Rajiv Singh.
While the call for the resumption of classes in Moreh by the students to prioritise education despite the challenging circumstances is an issue to be taken seriously, the sequence of events also sheds light on the complex interplay of socio-political dynamics in the international border town, an official observed.