The local government in insurgency-hit Manipur has assured Catholic schools in this northeastern Indian state that security will be stepped up if needed following media reports that militants have issued threats against them, seen as veiled attempts at extortion. The schools were due to open this week after a six-week-long Christmas vacation but many have delayed doing so. "Most Christian schools here remained closed on Monday [Feb. 5]," said Salesian Father P. X. Francis, principal of Don Bosco School in the state capital Imphal. "We haven't received a threat from any militant groups, at least not that I'm aware of," he said, adding the reports sowed confusion among parents. Education Minister T. Radheshyam and Chief Minister N. B. Singh have vowed to crack down on whoever was issuing the threats and provide the schools with additional security if needed, the priest told ucanews.com. Many of the state's 72 Catholic schools, 17 higher secondary schools and three colleges were slowly returning to normal later in the week. "The reports scared some students away for the first few days but things are becoming normal again now," Father Francis said. Catholic schools, mostly run by Salesian missionaries, are known for providing a high quality of education to 100,000 students across the state. At least three Salesian priests have been shot to death by militants since 1997. Several were killed for defying threats such as those reported recently.
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