| A student goes to school in Imphal during the bandh on Monday. Picture by Eastern Projections |
Imphal, July 7: Manipur spent the most uncharacteristic bandh today, as students returned to algebra and Ohm’s law and fought over lunchboxes as though it were just another normal school day.
Till last week, a bandh was a bandh — a holiday to stay at home and chill out.
But a procession by over a lakh students and teachers on Saturday changed all that.
Led by the Democratic Students Alliance of Manipur, students spilled onto the streets shouting slogans against militants who held schools to ransom and protesters who never thought twice before declaring a bandh.
In a resolution adopted after the rally, the students and teachers sought an exemption of the education sector from the purview of bandhs. So when the joint action committee of Haobam Marak of Imphal West called a 48-hour bandh yesterday to protest the killing of a youth by security forces, it exempted schools from the strike.
For the first time in years, students woke up on a bandh morning and got ready for school.
“I never thought there would be such a day,” said 15-year-old Thouba Singh (not his real name) as he walked to school. He could hardly believe his ears when his mother woke him up and asked him to get dressed.
“I am happy as we can continue with our syllabus,” he smiled.
An official source in the education department said all the educational institutions remained open and attendance was normal.
“It is a refreshing change that our school opened today despite the bandh. Closure of our school during bandh was the norm earlier,” L. Jadumani Singh, an Imphal schoolteacher said.
But then, there were those who were unhappy with the change, too.
“Bandhs are fine with me,” said a Class VI student who did not wish to be named. “I could play, play and play and watch television,” he said as waited for his schoolbus this morning.
The bandh evoked mixed response in other sectors.
The action committee called the bandh after it claimed that Langpoklakpam Bimolchandra Singh, said to be a contractor, was killed by a combined team of police and Assam Rifles on July 4 near Imphal airport when he went to pay his labourers.
The police, however, claimed Bimolchandra Singh was shot dead after he tried to hurl a hand grenade.
Markets responded to the bandh call and remained closed but government offices functioned as usual.
While bus and taxi services remained suspended, a number of private vehicles and two-wheelers were seen on Imphal streets.