The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Schools bear brunt of row

Imphal/Kohima, Sept. 7: Naga students simultaneously vandalised 35 government schools in three hill districts of Manipur last evening even as chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh and his Nagaland counterpart Neiphiu Rio presented divergent opinions before the Centre on the contentious issue of all schools in Naga-inhabited areas following the same syllabus.

Official reports reaching here today said student activists damaged buildings and furniture of at least 35 government schools in Ukhrul, Senapati and Tamenglong districts in concerted attacks after 4 pm. Though the reports maintained that Chandel district remained unaffected, unofficial reports said Naga students damaged one government school.

The students set ablaze effigies of Ibobi Singh and education minister L. Nandakumar Singh in the three districts to protest against their opposition to the introduction of Naga syllabus in the Naga-dominated hill districts.

A police source here said the irate students used spades, axes and other weapons to dismantle walls of the government buildings and destroyed furniture and files.

In Ukhrul district, Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong targeted 28 schools while the Senapati District Students Association damaged six schools. Only one school was attacked in Tamenglong district, the report said. Though local police stations have registered cases, no one has been picked up in connection with the school attack.

Naga students have damaged education offices in the Naga-dominated districts in the past. But this is the first time that they targeted government schools. Some of the buildings were so badly damaged that no classes could be held there today.

Members of the All Naga Students Association of Manipur have been campaigning for affiliation of more than 160 private schools in the four Naga-dominated districts to the Nagaland Board of Secondary Education.

The Nagaland government and Kohima-based Naga Students Federation have been supporting the campaign.

The Ibobi Singh government, however, remained adamant that no school in Manipur would be allowed affiliation to any neighbouring board.

Both Rio and Ibobi Singh stuck to their stands during the chief ministers’ meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday.

Ibobi Singh met the human resource development minister on Tuesday to remind the Centre of his government’s stand on the syllabus row.

Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio reportedly spoke to the Prime Minister and claimed the meeting was “positive”.

He said the Centre was serious on the issue and had agreed to find solution at the earliest. “The Prime Minister has informed me that he will study the case,” he said.

The chief minister, however, pointed out that during his meeting with the human resource development minister, Arjun Singh, the latter had told him that the matter would be resolved following the Prime Minister’s directions.

“He (Singh) gave a patient hearing even after several hours of attending the chief ministers’ meeting,” Rio added.

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