Laljem Thanglalzem should be in class at Manipur University right now, studying for his Masters degree in English. But unlike his Meitei and Naga classmates, Mr. Thanglalzem hails from the Kuki-Zomi community; since ethnic violence tore through the State in early May, he has been unable to enter the Meitei-dominated Imphal valley where the Central university is located.
“Despite the political situation and without taking cognisance of the situation of students like us, who belong to the minority community, the college administration started their classes with Meitei and Naga students. This move has robbed us of our Right to Education,” says Mr. Thanglalzem.
‘Impossible to enter Imphal’
On Thursday, he participated in a protest at the Churachandpur Government College along with more than 20 other Kuki-Zomi students of Manipur University, appealing to the Central government and the University Grants Commission to transfer them to other Central universities in light of the unrest in the State.
The students, from different departments of Manipur University, demanded that their right to education be upheld by the government. The protest was against the injustice meted out to the Kuki-Zomi students who are at present unable to attend their classes in Manipur University, said a student who did not want to be named. Movement between the hills and the Imphal valley has been restricted since May 3; no person from the Kuki-Zomi community is entering the Imphal valley, and no Meitei is entering the hilly areas of Churachandpur and Kankgkopki, the student added.
‘Assaulted and robbed’
Many students were assaulted and had to be rescued from violent Meitei mobs by the Assam rifles. “When the angry Meitei mob entered our university, they threatened and assaulted us first and then went on to burn and loot all our belongings,” recalls Chinneilam Khongsai. Like many of her Kuki-Zomi classmates, the 24-year-old Psychology student now has no access to her study materials, nor can she access anything online, as the government has imposed an internet ban in the State.
Having seen the violence unfold in front of her eyes, Ms. Khongsai faces a tough dilemma: she cannot imagine going back to the University, but she wishes to continue her education no matter what. With the University administration ignoring the plight of its Kuki-Zomi students, she is unsure if she should pay her fourth semester fees. “Through my friends who are in other States, I got to know that the University has asked students to make payment for their upcoming semester, but since they have made no alternate arrangements for us, I’m skeptical of making any payments,” says Ms. Khongsai.
The united student body has also demanded alternative offline examination centres for fourth semester students.