Manipur University row: Varsity's suspended V-C was facing protests over financial irregularities, favouritism
Around half an hour post-midnight on Thursday, hundreds of policemen barged into the Manipur University hostels.
Imphal: Around half an hour post-midnight on Thursday, hundreds of policemen barged into the Manipur University hostels and took scores of students and a few professors into custody in what seemed to be a vengeful reaction to the suspensions of the vice-chancellor, pro vice-chancellor and the registrar. Jogeshchandra Haobam, Superintendent of Police, Imphal west, confirmed in a press conference on Friday afternoon that 89 students and six professors have been detained at the Singjamei police station, Laphel police station and the Imphal police station.
The man at the centre of this chaos is Adya Prasad Pandey, whose resignation had been the main demand of the protesting students, teachers and other staff at the university. There were several reasons why the university as a whole was against him holding the post of vice-chancellor, staging a protest that lasted almost 85 days. Amar Yumnam, professor at the economics department of MU, said that there were administrative laxes since the time Pandey assumed vice-chancellor's position in November 2016.
Yumnam asserts that Pandey had been on leave for over 180 days within his short stint. Even on days when he was present at the university, he would reach late to work at around 1 pm in the afternoon. All the meetings had to be rescheduled because of him. There were Executive Council meetings and Academic Council meetings that were supposed to be held regularly but that did not happen. He added that the positions of the registrar, controller of examinations and librarian are statutory posts to which people were appointed by him. This was done so that Pandey could exercise his power by keeping these people under his mercy, says Yumnam.
In addition to that, there have been charges of Pandey diverting contracts from the state to Lucknow which concerns the university. Earlier, the answer scripts provided by the local suppliers were bought for Rs 6 per sheet which increased almost four times to Rs 24 per sheet when it was bought from a Lucknow supplier, the professor said.
Proponent of pro-right politics
Pandey, a professor at the economics department at Banaras Hindu University who was sent to Manipur on deputation, has also been known as an erstwhile ABVP leader who is now a pro-BJP man with strong political background. He is married to politician Veena Pandey who is BJP general secretary in Uttar Pradesh. She has also served as a member of the UP legislative Assembly in the past and is the national vice-president of the BJP Mahila Morcha.
Thursday's midnight raids were conducted after Prof Yugindro Singh and Prof Shyamkesho were made to sign an apology letter after having entered the premises of the MU on Thursday despite getting suspended recently by the two-member inquiry committee appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Department (MHRD) this month to inquire about the allegations of misadministration leveled against the vice-chancellor. The inquiry committee was appointed on 17 August, 2018, one day after the MHRD signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the university was to restore normalcy in MU and ensure a free and fair inquiry.
Yugindro Singh claimed that he and Shyamkesho were kept in detention by the members of the MU Teachers Association, MU Students Association and MU Staff Association, who forced the duo to sign an apology letter for ‘acting against the interests of the university’. Singh and Shyamkesho were appointed as pro vice-chancellor and registrar, respectively, by then vice-chancellor Pandey, who too, was recently suspended on 18 September, 2018 by the HRD ministry.
Pandey could be suspended from BHU too
Yugindro Singh decided to file an FIR at the Singjamei police station following which the raids were conducted on Thursday night by the Imphal Police (West). The SP, Haobam, said at the conference that the arrested students and professors were to be brought before the judicial magistrate of Imphal West on Friday. There was no clarity about the release of those arrested by the time of writing. An internet shutdown has been imposed in Imphal east and west which made sending out information a tedious task all through Friday.
Javed Mehdi, general secretary, Manipur Students' Association Delhi, blamed the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh for the clampdown on students and professors at the MU. “The V-C is very close to RSS and senior BJP leaders and is acting like a dictator. It is very unfortunate that the Centre did not take any step in favour of the students whose examinations are underway. The orders of firing rubber bullets on students and detaining them is deplorable,” said Mehdi, adding that they demand strict actions against the vice-chancellor and all those who are responsible for this attack on the varsity.
Pandey has also been accused of fudging university funds. Sources from the state say that there are allegations of him illegally donating Rs 2 lakh from college funds to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), BJP’s student wing, in the state. In addition to that, Professor Yumnam said that funds were mishandled by Pandey and Shyamkesho during the Indian Science Congress that was held in April this year. The event involved expenses of at least Rs 30 crore but the university financial officer was not involved in organising it.
Sources at the BHU said that the varsity’s executive council is contemplating to move the suspension of Pandey for bringing bad reputation to BHU. The council is scheduled to meet during the last week of September.
Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert, an NGO based in Imphal, condemned the incident, saying that the government has been using disproportionate forces against the students and teachers. “Their arrest discards all forms of democratic processes,” he said, adding that the internet shutdown following the incident shows that the government and the powerful people involved have a lot to hide. “This is prima facie evidence of their misconduct,” said Loitongbam.
(Authors are freelance writers and members of 101Reporters.com.)
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