Schools shut in India’s violence-hit Manipur

GUWAHATI: Nearly all schools remained shut in India’s violence-hit Manipur state despite a government order to reopen them on Wednesday in a bid to restore normalcy after two months of ethnic clashes that have killed almost 120 people.

Students, teachers and support staff did not show up at schools in the morning in the state in northeast India, said a state education department official who requested anonymity. Four private schools opened but all government-run schools were still closed, he added.

“There is a sense of fear and insecurity among the people and hence we decided against sending our children to school,” said Ibotombi Singh, a businessman from the state capital Imphal.

The state government, run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political party, had ordered schools to reopen from Wednesday for children aged between five and 14 even as sporadic fighting between ethnic groups continued in the hilly state that borders Myanmar.

Footage from news agency ANI, however, showed dozens of students taking lessons inside a classroom and walking in the premises of a school in Imphal.

Resentment between members of the Kuki tribe – who live in the hills, get economic benefits and quotas in government jobs and education – and the Meiteis – who control the more prosperous lowlands – spilled over as they clashed on May 3.

The violence was triggered after a court in February suggested that the special privileges granted to the Kukis, comprising 16% of the state’s population, be extended to the Meiteis, who are a majority in Manipur.

At least 118 people have been killed and more than 40,000 displaced in the violence. Several rounds of peace talks between the groups have broken down.

The federal government has asked the state’s chief minister to “work harder” and deployed additional security forces but it is concerned that the warring factions may be getting support from Myanmar.

India’s Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane and Myanmar’s junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing reaffirmed a commitment over the weekend that their territories would not be allowed for activities “inimical to the other,” the Indian government said.

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