Thousands of students from the Kuki-zo community came out to protest against the disqualification of 25 Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) affiliated schools in Manipur’s Lamka on Thursday.

A rally was organised by the Joint Students Body and was attended by thousands from the community who demanded that CBSE take back its decision. The rally was also organised to protest against the suspension of three Tribal zonal officers in the district. Manipur that has been witnessing intense violence from the past nine months is still tense with the Meitei and the Kuki-Zo community both having regular clashes.

Speaking to The Citizen about the protest Khamsangh Lian, the President of Khangthah Zuun Pawl (KZP) one of the organising committees of the protest said, “The protest is about the disqualification of the already affiliated 25 schools from Kangpokpi and Lamka. The Manipur government complained to the CBSE that there was a forgery by some officers. On that ground, the CBSE disqualified the 25 schools,” he said.

The schools had recently gotten the CBSE affiliation to which Lian said everyone was only hoping for a better future.

“All the student bodies tried our best to get the affiliation. The protest today was mainly about the handling of the matter and also the CBSE’s decision on this matter,” he said.

In the hills, where the Tribal communities reside, the schools are, at the moment, are being used as relief camps for the displaced Kuki-Zo communities in Lamka and other districts. Only a handful of schools are fully functioning in various districts of the hills.

He also said that they are also demanding the revocation of the three officials suspended, who have been accused of forging the signatures.

Students carrying banners of “Re-officiate the 25 Tribal schools” and “we need equal access to fair education” were raised by the students.

The Kuki-Zo community has been demanding a separate administration from the community as they said that the Biren Singh led government has failed to control the situation.

Lamka, or Churachandpur, is one of the main areas where most of the violence happened, where the road separating the Kuki-zo villages and the Meitei community has been called the Buffer Zone.

The buffer zone is an area where only the Indian Army can be seen and there is no sight of any residents. On the side of the road are the remains of burnt houses that still lay after all those months.

The unrest in the state has left the future of many students uncertain. The Tribal community has alleged that while schools are properly functioning in Imphal, areas inhabited by the Tribal communities are suffering.

Overlooking the blue sky and picturesque mountains backdrop, students shouted for equal and fair education.

Speaking to The Citizen Samuel Lshakun, program manager at a local NGO in the area said, “According to the order that the officials received, during their suspension, they were supposed to move to Imphal. At a time where there is so much unrest, why call them to an area where they may be harmed is a question that everyone is asking as well,” he said.

In the presence of the Indian Army, the peace rally was taken out. The unrest has taken away nine months of the school education for these students. “We want fair, equal education and opportunities. This is all we demand,” a student said.

All the 25 schools are private, and were recently affiliated.

“After the mayhem that started on May 3 the students could not go back to school. Although we tried to speak with the principals, headmistress and student unions that students need to go to school, otherwise their minds will be terrorised. But we came to know that even the marksheets of our students were misplaced, while many students were giving zero marks as all the papers are checked in Imphal,” Lian added.

However, this accusation was not confirmed by the government officials as there are no officials in Lamka at the moment.