Manipur University row: Chaos returns to the central university after arrest of six professors and 89 students
Just as things were returning to normal in the Manipur University, police crackdown on agitators put the university back on reverse gear.
Just as things were getting back to normalcy and academic atmosphere gradually returning in the Manipur University, police crackdown on agitating Manipur University professors and students put the central university back on reverse gear.
The police action which took place in the university campus, way past midnight on Thursday, resulted in the arrest of six professors and 89 students, including the spokespersons of Manipur University Teachers’ Association (MUTA) and leaders of Manipur University Students’ Union (MUSU).
Superintendent of Police of Imphal West district, Jogeshchandra Haobijm, who led the midnight crackdown, told Firstpost that the police action was taken up on the basis of an FIR. “As per the complaint lodged by the pro vice-chancellor who is the VC in-charge of Manipur University, Prof K Yugindro Singh, an FIR has been registered with Singjamei police station. Prof Yugindro named 31 individuals who are activists of MUTA, MUSU and MUSA and charged them with intimidation, attempt to murder and wrongful confinement. Based on his complaint, police crackdown took place on all of those involved professors and students at midnight. The police arrested 6 professors and 89 students. Some more have been detained for further verification and a detailed investigation in underway,” said the police officer.
Incidentally, Singh, the pro vice-chancellor, and M Shyamkishor, registrar–in-charge of the university, were subjected to wrongful confinement and intimidation by the agitating professors and students when they were inspecting the status of their offices. Their offices were securely locked up as part of the ongoing agitation for the removal of AP Pandey as the vice-chancellor of the university.
The pro vice-chancellor and the registrar said that they were instructed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to start assuming their offices and discharge their official duties following the suspension of Pandey on 17 September by the President of India pending completion of the inquiry on the allegations leveled against him by the agitators.
Singh, who later filed a police complaint, termed the incident as life-threatening. “Yesterday, for the first time in my long years of service as a professor of the Manipur University, I had a terrible time at the hands of a few MUTA and MUSU leaders. They confined me, harassed me and forced me to sign a printed document. I signed it to escape the spot. I was detained for over 2 hours. I had a very difficult time," he said.
Thursday’s crackdown came after the agitators hailed the suspension of Pandey as a partial victory in the ongoing agitation for his removal as the vice-chancellor. The agitation, which started from 30 May, has completely crippled the higher education sector in Manipur, with all of the 86 undergraduate colleges affiliated to the university, affected by the shutdown.
Pandey was previously head of the economics department at Banaras Hindu University before taking over the Manipur University in October 2016 as its vice-chancellor. His employment by the HRD ministry came following the resignation of the then vice-chancellor H Nandakumar Sharma after a similar agitation by the students’ community over reservation of seats under the Central Education Institutions (Reservation in Administration) Amendment Act, 2012.
Pandey’s wife, Veena, happens to be an influential BJP leader well connected with the who’s who of the BJP and RSS. She has served as member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council and has held several positions in the BJP. In 2004, she had unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket from Uttar Pradesh’s Sultanpur.
Students and teachers of the university alleged that Pandey was running the highest seat of learning in the state on the basis of his own whims and fancy, flouting provisions of the Manipur University Act. Charges against him include unreasonable leave of absence from the campus on several counts, lavish travel expenses, non-appointment of permanent librarian, a controller of examinations and a registrar, violating financial guidelines while making purchases, favouring Uttar Pradesh-based firms while awarding tenders, exhibiting administrative incompetency and using his office for propagating ring wing political ideology.
The allegations against the vice-chancellor are backed up by MUTA, the body that has subsequently supported the demand for the removal of Pandey as vice-chancellor.
“Professor Pandey hardly spent time in the university since he took over as its VC. He is never in the campus for more than 10 days in any given month. Pandey approved many big expenditures without even forming a purchase committee, which is the standard procedure,” said N Nimai Singh, MUTA spokesperson. Nimai Singh, who is among those arrested, relinquished his post as the head of physics department in support of the ongoing agitation.
Pandey, on the other hand, has refuted the allegations leveled against him and said he will not resign as he has not done anything wrong. Countering the allegations that he has left vacant crucial academic positions in the university, Pandey explained, “Things like that take time. Most of these posts have been vacant even before I joined.”
On the charges of favouring Lucknow-based firms, he said everything was done through transparent mechanisms. “When I joined, the classrooms were in bad shape, the benches were broken, so I thought we should modernise the classrooms. That’s why I called for the construction of smart classrooms with digital boards,” asserted Pandey in his own defense. He also denied that he is turning his office into a meeting point for right-wing leaders.
“I’m an academician. I’ve come here to serve the university,” said Pandey. He further said he holds no formal position in any right-wing organisation but admits occasionally attending functions organised by them. Pandey added that he is being targeted because he was not from Manipur and alleged that the student functionaries are connected with militant outfits. “They want to get contracts for all kinds of work in the university, but since that has stopped since I joined, they are upset with me,” he said.
With the Manipur impasse remaining unsolvable, the MHRD along with the state government called the agitating parties to a negotiating table and signed a memorandum of agreement which basically assured that Pandey will be given an extended holiday until the completion of the inquiry against him. Meanwhile, the agitation should be suspended so as to allow the university to function. This arrangement had brought back normalcy in the university.
Even as the MoA was in force, Pandey assumed office on the grounds that his holiday for 30 days had expired and appointed pro vice-chancellor Singh and reinstated registrar-in-charge Shyamkishor, who were previously suspended by the then vice-chancellor in-charge, Prof Viswanath. Subsequently, on 17 September, the President of India suspended Pandey until the completion of the inquiry.
After Thursday’s crackdown, Manipur University wore a deserted look as Manipur Police seized the campus, restricting entry in to the varsity. Meanwhile, the state police, under the supervision of the judicial magistrate and deputy commission of Imphal west (under whose jurisdiction the campus falls), broke open the offices of the registrar-in-charge and the vice-chancellor and asked both officials to assume charge.
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