Manipur University meltdown shows no signs of mellowing, six student bodies declare 48-hour strike from tomorrow

Y Yugindro Singh, the pro-vice-chancellor on whose complaint the police action took place resulting in the arrest of 89 students and six teachers has suspended the arrested professors.

Sunzu Bachaspatimayum September 25, 2018 20:22:05 IST
Manipur University meltdown shows no signs of mellowing, six student bodies declare 48-hour strike from tomorrow

Manipur University crisis that started as a demand for the removal of its vice-chancellor, Adya Prasad Pandey is set to further worsen following Thursday midnight’s police crackdown on agitating students and teachers.

Five days after the unprecedented police action on the five boys’ hostels of the university, six professors of the university and seven student leaders are currently lodged in jail under judicial custody with the arrested students and teachers refusing bail.

Manipur University meltdown shows no signs of mellowing six student bodies declare 48hour strike from tomorrow

Suspended AP Pandey is at the centre of the row in Manipur University. Image courtesy Sunzu Bachaspatimayum

Meanwhile, Y Yugindro Singh, the pro-vice-chancellor on whose complaint the police action took place resulting in the arrest of 89 students and six teachers has suspended the arrested professors, following their remand in judicial custody.

Yugindro had in his FIR stated that he was manhandled and threatened by a section of students and teachers of the university when he along with M Shyamkishore, the registrar in-charge, went to assume charge as the vice-chancellor-in-charge by virtue of his appointment as the pro-vice-chancellor by Pandey just before he was suspended.

“There was no case of manhandling of professor Yugindro and Shyamkisho as alleged by Yugindro,” said Sumitra Phanjoubam, who was present during the alleged confinement of Yugindro and Shyamkishore in the locked room inside the administrative block of the university. I was present at the scene and I personally made sure decorum was maintained and no unparliamentary words or abusive languages were hurdled against the two professors as alleged,” said the lady professor on the incident that took place when Yugindro and Shyamkishore had come to assume office on Thursday morning.

Agitating students and teachers opposed the appointment of Yugindro as the pro-vice-chancellor saying it is in violation of the Manipur University Act 2005. Reacting to Yugindro breaking open the sealed office of the vice-chancellor and assuming charge, the seniormost professor of the university, Vishwanath said the act transgressed the code of the inquiry committee that had restricted entry into the said office until the investigation is carried out.

Blaming the BJP led state government of supporting Pandey’s move to sabotage the pending Ministry of Human Resources Development instituted enquiry into the alleged charges of derelictions of duty and responsibility against him, civil society organisations, student bodies of the state as well as the Congress party have termed the crackdown as a rape on the sanctity of the university and called it a blot on democracy.

Following the crackdown, the university campus has been heavily militarised and movement within and outside has been severely restricted with the state administration clamping the restrictive CrPc 144, preventing movement and gathering of more than four-five people inside the university campus in Imphal.

“Security personnel are deployed at every nook and corner of the university. We feel afraid to move around and every time we pass them they would interrogate us. This is mental harassment,” said a lady research scholar who is staying at one of the university’s girls’ hostel who took part in the hunger strike staged at the gate of the hostel. The university girl students are demanding the unconditional release of the arrested students and teachers and the restoration of normalcy in the university.

Significantly, the shutdown strike of the university that started on 30 May by Manipur University Students’ Union, and subsequently backed by the Manipur University Teachers’ Association and Manipur University Staff Association, was suspended after 85 days of crippling agitation on 18 August, following an agreement with the state government and HRD ministry as signatories. The agreement was that Pandey would be on leave and will not enter the university premises till a committee of enquiry conducts an investigation into the allegation against him.

Though the university reopened and preparation began for the stalled fourth-semester examination, the students and teachers alleged that attempts were being made to tamper with the evidence to shield Pandey, a former faculty member of Banaras Hindu University. Pandey himself returned to resume his duties on 1 September saying his leave had expired on 31 August.  He then filed a petition against the 18 August Agreement in the Manipur High Court. This provoked the students' union to resume the agitation. Then on 17 September the President of India suspended Pandey until the enquiry is completed.

Interestingly before he was suspended, Pandey had appointed his close associate, Yugindro as the pro-vice-chancellor who will function as the vice-chancellor in-charge in his absence. This notification was issued despite the fact that Vishwanath, the seniormost professor was earlier appointed as the vice-chancellor in-charge by the HRD ministry as a measure to restore normalcy and to facilitate an independent enquiry when Pandey was on extended leave. Pandey issued another notification on 18 September stating that he had handed over the charge to Yugindro Singh and in another notification, Pandey had banned the Manipur University Students’ Union and Manipur University Teachers’ Association respectively.

After taking charge of the office of the vice-chancellor, Yugindro as an olive branch, offered to apprise the government to release the arrested students and teachers and make an appeal to the university community to help him restore normalcy by cooperating with him. Students and teachers, on the other hand, have adopted a non-cooperation mode against Yugindro and boycotted the ongoing semester examinations until normalcy returns in the campus and demilitarisation take place.

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh also sought the cooperation of civil society organisations of the state in finding an amicable solution to the Manipur University crisis. Justifying the police crackdown the chief minister took recourse in recalling past untoward incidents that had taken place in the university campus such as a broad daylight killing of a professor and said that the state government couldn’t remain a silent spectator when the agitating party chose to take law into their own hands. In the same breath, he assured that the state government is committed to restoring normalcy and peaceful academic atmosphere in the university for which he is helping in mediation between the agitating parties and the HRD ministry.

Meanwhile six student bodies of the state—All Manipur Students’ Union, Manipur Students’ Federation, Kangleipak Students’ Association, Students’ Union Kangleipak, Democratic Students’ Alliance of Manipur and Apunba Ireipakki Maheiroi Singlup have gone beyond condemning the police crackdown and jointly called a 48 hours ‘general strike’, starting from 26 September midnight, demanding restoration of normalcy and unconditional release of the arrested teachers and students as well as cancellation of the suspension order of the arrested teachers.

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