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Manipur University violence: High court suspends pro-V-C, registrar in charge; 17 students detained after clashes with police

Imphal: The Manipur High Court on Thursday suspended Manipur University pro-V-C K Yugindro Singh and registrar-in-charge M Shyamkesho. Former Manipur chief secretary Jarnail Singh has been appointed the interim V-C. The high court while hearing a PIL filed by one Chongtham Nimai had warned on 5 October that it will intervene if no amicable solution was reached to the Manipur University crisis by 11 October.

Students on hunger strike demand the release of those arrested during midnight raids last month. Image procured by Greeshma Rai

Students on hunger strike demand the release of those arrested during midnight raids last month. Image procured by Greeshma Rai

Earlier on Wednesday, 17 student protesters in Manipur University were detained by police after clashes broke out in the campus during an agitation. The protesting students were demanding a withdrawal of the FIR lodged by the varsity’s acting vice-chancellor K Yugindro Singh which led to the arrest of six professors and nine students on 21 September. A similar agitation was foiled by the police on Monday as well.

The students detained on Wednesday are currently being held at the Singjamei police station. The detainees include four Democratic Students' Alliance of Manipur (DESAM) activists, out of which two are female students of Manipur University of Culture. While parents of the students said the four might be sent to judicial custody, senior police officials said it is too early to talk about an unconditional release or further detention.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a post-doctoral fellow on the campus said a group of over 70 students—enraged by the indifference of the university authorities—was heading towards the administrative block to reiterate their demands of securing an immediate release of the arrested professors and students.

“There was some confrontation between the police and protesting students following which the police conducted a verification drive at the boys hostels with due permission from university authorities,” Imphal West SP Jogeshchandra Haobijam told 101Reporters. “After informing the V-C, registrar, and the warden, we verified each and every student in all the five boys hostels and managed to pick up 13 individuals who participated in the agitation. They have been detained at the Singjamei police station for further verification,” he said adding that the detained students were rounded up when they were attempting to flee after clashes with police.

Haobijam informed that Yugindro had asked for help from the police after a group of students caused extensive damages to the administrative block, where the office of the vice-chancellor is also located. According to the police, the students had also damaged some of their vehicles by pelting stones. However, security personnel posted for sentry duty nearby claimed that the protesting students clashed with the police when the cops tried to obstruct them from reaching the administrative block. According to eyewitnesses, the women detainees were picked up from inside the campus while running away from tear gas shelling and baton charge by the police.

The incident comes despite Chief Minister N Biren Singh’s previous instructions to do otherwise. On 1 October, the chief minister had directed the DGP of Manipur to stop the further arrest of students and professors along with the raids inside the Manipur University campus while assuring Manipur University Staff Association (MUSA) and Manipur University Teachers’ Association (MUTA) representatives that action would be taken against those who do so.

The clashes on Wednesday came amid a mass casual leave by nearly all the professors in the varsity to protest against the delay in the unconditional release and withdrawal of FIR lodged against the professors, students and staff. On Tuesday, the MUTA condemned Yugindro and passed a resolution of non-cooperation against his administration for describing the university communities as “terrorist-like agitators” in his 3 October letter to the Secretary, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resources Development.

In his letter, Yugindro also alleged that Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla had expressed her overt support for the agitators in the varsity while questioning his taking over as acting V-C. He later apologised saying his breach of protocol was due to mental stress.

On Tuesday, human rights activist Babloo Loitongbam, the executive director of Human Rights Alert, wrote to the DGP of Manipur demanding an immediate release of the arrested professors and students. He claimed that an official letter from the Governor’s secretariat on 6 October pointed out that Yugindro had already confided to Governor Najma Heptulla that he filed a false FIR against the students as he was never manhandled.

In the past few months, the university has witnessed intense protests over the removal of the Adya Prasad Pandey as vice-chancellor who had to step down on 19 September and submit himself to an inquiry into his alleged administrative lapses.

The author is Imphal-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.


Updated Date: Oct 11, 2018 18:24 PM