A joint committee of four tribal students’ organisation imposed an indefinite shutdown in Manipur to protest the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government’s “failure in appointing tribal language teachers in the State’s higher secondary schools.
The shutdown, which officials said had minimal impact in Imphal Valley districts and parts of the surrounding hills began at 6 am. The organisations that gave the call include Thadou Students’ Association (TSA), Rongmei Naga Students’ Organisation and Liangmei Naga Katimai Ruangdi (LKNR).
The shutdown that saw scattered groups put up road blockades, affected movement of public transport and government vehicles on two arterial highways that are Manipur’s lifeline. Communication to border town Moreh too was affected.
In a tweet tagging Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh, the TSA said: “In Jiribam, the roads look deserted. Trucks were stranded not because of natural calamities like landslides/mudslides. But, only due to the bandh called by the joint tribal bodies demanding their legitimate rights.”
The TSA also said the Chief Minister was biased against the tribal people despite his attempts to bridge the hill-valley divide.
This metaphorical divide alludes to the alleged injustice to the tribal people residing primarily in Manipur’s hills and the non-tribal communities dominating Imphal Valley, the seat of power in the State.
The reason behind the shutdown was a government order for recruiting 409 teachers issued a few days ago. “The State Cabinet had on March 12 taken a decision to recruit 42 lecturers across higher secondary schools for nine tribal languages. But no posts were announced for teachers of tribal languages in the order,” Rofica Newmai, education secretary of LKNR, said.
The students’ organisations said the government should comply with the regulation of National Council for Teacher Education, 2014 norms and not deprive the rights and privileges of trained candidates.
An official spokesperson said the government was against ‘bandh culture’, and that the government would not ignore genuine issues of all communities including the appointment of teachers. “Discussion, not agitation that disturbs public life, is the way forward,” he said.
But the agitating groups said they would not relent unless a notification for recruitment of lecturers for tribal language subjects is issued.
Meanwhile, other tribal student groups such as Kuki Students’ Organisation and Zeliangrong Students’ Union Manipur have opposed the shutdown, insisting the issue of tribal language teachers should be dealt with only by the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur.