Even as the ethnic conflict in Imphal valley refuses to die down, displaced, hunted and harassed Manipuri students are facing a tough time as they are unable to return to their universities to resume their courses.
Ideally, Daniel Haokip should be in class at Manipur University right now, studying for his Masters degree in History. However, as a member of the Kuki-Zomi group, unlike his Meitei and Naga classmates, he bore the brunt of the ethnic conflict in May, a Meitei-dominated city. Kuki students could not stay in Imphal, where the Central University is located.
Braving the ongoing unrest in Manipur and unwilling to lose an academic semester due, Daniel and his two friends visited his college hostel to collect the documents only to witness horrifying scenes.
“Our careers are completely destroyed. They have burned down all our certificates, documents, write-ups and my thesis which I worked on for two years," he said.
“Our careers are completely destroyed." |
" They have burned down all our certificates, documents." |
Living the horror
Kuki students of Manipur University — who have now left Imphal for their homes in nearby villages at Churachandpur or are staying with relatives in Nagaland and Assam — shared their “harrowing experience” with The Free Press Journal over the phone.
"They (vandals) knew which rooms to vandalise, they targeted rooms belonging to students from Kuki community," a PhD scholar studying at Manipur University in Imphal told FPJ. "It is not possible to return to the campus as the communal feeling is so strong now,” he added.
Another young scholar who refused to disclose her location in Manipur, told FPJ that she stayed in the hostel with five other Kuki students. When violence erupted between Meiteis and Kukis on the night of May 3, she received an urgent message from her friend asking her to leave the hostel immediately as armed rioters stormed the university and targeted the hostels to attack female Kuki students.
"My roommates and I managed to escape as we got the message before the mob arrived at the hostel. Those who could not, were dragged out of their rooms and verbally abused and harassed,” she added.
Her daughter's education was of least concern for the scholar's mother who lamented the loss of their home and said "We are financially broke and coping with everyday expenses. There is no going back to that campus. I want my family to live."
Students take to streets
Students from different departments of Manipur University have taken to the streets of Churachandpur to raise their voices in support of necessary measures for students from the community.
"Without considering the situation of students of the minority community, the college administration began classes with Meitei and Naga students. We are deprived of our right to education," Daniel claims.
The students are appealing to the Central government and the University Grants Commission to transfer them to other Central universities.
On July 27, around 60 students took part in the hour-long protest organized by the Joint Students’ Body (JSB), Lamka, in front of the Churachandpur College seeking the attention of the University Grants Commission and the central government to “secure” their future.
Daniel participated in a protest hoping to get an alternative arrangement outside Imphal so that he could continue his studies without worrying about safety. “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 Daniel.
"We are deprived of our right to education." |
"There is no going back to that campus." |
Another Kuki student who did not want to be named told the FPJ, "Over 500 students from the community were suffering due to the administration's indifference."
Kuki-Zomi students expressed desperation as their plight was ignored by the University administration and hostel warden who did not respond to the Free Press Journal.
The FPJ's attempts to reach N Thangzamuan, officer in charge, and Karthik Malladi, Superintendent of police, at the Churachandpur police station, went in vain.
Karnataka opens doors to displaced students
The Karnataka government has eased the process of enrolling Manipur students in schools and PU institutions in Karnataka, allowing them to continue their education.
The Department of School Education and Literacy (DSEL) has issued a circular to schools to consider their applications for admission as the academic year has already started. In the circular, School Education Commissioner BB Cauvery stated that a special case will be made for students from Manipur seeking admission to schools in Karnataka.
The FPJ is awaiting a response from the University Grants Commission on students' requests to be transferred to other Central universities.