It is unfortunate that underground elements in Manipur have once again threatened to disrupt the functioning of missionary schools in the state. This time the trouble is said to have started after Catholic school authorities decided to retain a few seats as their “discretionary quota.” But some student organisations objected to this. It all began early this month. However, a way out was found whereby the school authorities could admit Catholic students and children of the faculty members. At this point the banned Kangleipak Communist Party (military council) faction stepped in and announced the closure of all Catholic schools in the valley. Since the controversy was centred around admissions, the state government on 22 April asked the authorities to reopen the schools. But the KCP(MC) changed its stand and demanded free compulsory education for all and blamed the Catholic schools of being an obstacle towards achieving this.
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The missionary schools have often been the rebels’ target as they feel only rich parents who can afford handsome donations can admit their children to such schools. There is widespread sympathy for the Catholic Education Society of Manipur. Over the past 20 years gunmen have killed at least three of its senior members. Several principals and headmasters and their students were assaulted and their institutions ransacked.
In 2001 militants’ demands for “donations” amounting to lakhs of rupees, forced many missionary schools to close down for two months. All this could have broken lesser men but the missionary schools stayed put because of their commitment to education. And if there had been some semblance of peace today on the campus, it was only after having to pay for it.