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‘Bid to quell protests’ — Chandigarh campus tense as classes cancelled for a week after ‘video leak’

University founder denies claim that efforts were made to suppress protests, adds there was a 'communication gap'. Students face inconveniences leaving campus at short notice.

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Chandigarh: Tension is written large on the faces of students and their parents at Chandigarh University in Mohali district’s Gharuan. While police continue to be deployed in heavy numbers at the university, anxious parents and local guardians wait outside the gate as students pack belongings to leave the campus.

It’s been three days since protests broke out at the private university over leaked ‘secret’ videos of women students. Protests that broke out on Saturday and Sunday have now ended. But for many students, anxiety has just begun. 

“They are sending them [students] back so that they can’t protest,” the hassled father of a 20-year-old Biotech student told ThePrint, as he loaded the luggage of his daughter and three other collegemates. He’s now preparing to take the four back to Himachal Pradesh.  

Had the university taken matters under control and not lied to them, this wouldn’t have happened. Now it’s a hassle for both guardians and students.”

The university administration, which suspended classes until Monday morning, has now extended it for a week until Saturday. R.S. Bawa, Pro-Chancellor of Chandigarh University, had told ThePrint that this was done to avoid “outside influence”. 

Students, however, see this as an attempt to quell protests. 

“This is just to subdue the protest,” a 19-year-old B.Tech student from Jharkhand who didn’t want to be named told ThePrint. “This is an indirect way to empty the campus. They know that without the out-passes (permission to leave campus), most of us will leave. They have told us that if you are leaving get a night pass, don’t come for day passes.” 

As reports of several purported ‘secret videos of women’ doing the rounds on social media emerged, parents are worried about their children.

“There are lots of claims on social media. We don’t know what’s true and what’s not. Watching TV is also increasing our anxiety. It’s best that we take them home for now,” the father of a 22-year-old MBA student said. 

The university’s Monday notification stated that the classes will be suspended until 24 September, but it doesn’t say if there will be online classes during that time.

Reacting to students’ allegations, Chandigarh University founder Satnam Singh Sandhu told ThePrint that they weren’t trying to crush the protests and that there had been a “communication gap”.

“They [students] aren’t wrong in protesting,” Sandhu told ThePrint. “There has been a communication gap. We are trying our best to provide assurances to the students. They dispersed after our assurances last [Sunday] night.”

The incident came to light Saturday after some students allegedly saw a female student fiddling with her phone in one of the common bathing areas of the hostel. The warden was alerted, and it was alleged that she was trying to record some videos.

The two days that followed saw students clash with the university authorities as well as the police.  

The student, who is accused of having leaked the video, has been arrested along with two other men — alleged to be her boyfriend and his friend.    

Although she was accused of having leaked several videos, police claim they haven’t found anything on her phone. All electronic devices of those arrested were sent for forensic examination, police sources said.

Sandhu, meanwhile, described the incident as “unfortunate”. 

We are trying our best to bring the matter under control. The matter was probed by senior administrative staff after which an FIR was filed. The student [the arrested female student] has been expelled,” he told ThePrint. “The students have been assured that action will be taken and all their demands have been kept in mind. We are cooperating with the police,” the Chandigarh University founder said, adding that he will look into the concerns over safety within the campus. 

Also Read: Fear, anger, conflicting claims — story of Chandigarh University’s ‘women’s secret video leak’

Helplessness, worry

Students leaving Chandigarh University | Bismee Taskin | ThePrint
Students leaving Chandigarh University | Bismee Taskin | ThePrint

The university’s notification on Monday morning caused panic and anger among the students, most of whom had just returned to the campus last week after their mid-semester online exam.

Students told ThePrint that their hostel wardens refused to issue “day passes” — a permission slip allowing students to exit the camps during the day but return by evening. A 19-year-old law student told ThePrint that his parents were “extremely worried, so they asked me to leave after hearing that the classes are suspended”. 

As students flock outside the gate to look for autorickshaws, some hiding their faces from the flashing cameras of the press, the uncertainty was palpable. At Chandigarh’s Sector 43 bus stand, students waited in droves to leave for their homes. 

A 20-year–old B.Tech student told ThePrint that returning to his hometown Guwahati would be difficult. “Flight tickets are expensive. I didn’t get a train reservation, so now I’m going to a relative’s place in Uttar Pradesh,” he said.  

Another 19-year-old Biotech student complained that suspended classes would mean missing out on practicals. 

For parents, it’s been an anxiety-filled few days. “The police and the university should have been transparent about the events,” the mother of an 18-year-old law student said. “We were worried sick about how things would unfold. Social media has been filled with rumours. Some even said there was lathi charge.”

The police have dismissed claims of any lathi charge during Sunday night’s protest.

A 17-year-old law student told ThePrint he just wanted things to be back to normal. “The protests have been massive for the last two days. Students from outside have also come and there is a police presence on campus,” the student said. “This has been a very scary experience.”

Despite the general anxiety that the notification has caused, some believe that shutting down classes could help calm things down. “Students of Panjab University came yesterday [Sunday]. Things could have been uglier, so they stopped our classes,” a 21-year-old MBA student said. 

Chandigarh University and its founder

Established in 2012, Chandigarh University offers 50 courses — both Bachelors and Masters programmes — and has around 30,000 students currently enrolled, including those from 54 countries.  

In the Ministry of Education’s National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) 2022, the university stood at number 29 in the best universities category, and ranked 45 and 40 for engineering and management studies. 

It debuted in the QS World University Rankings 2023 as the youngest university in the world, and was ranked third among India’s top private universities. In 2019, it was accredited A+ by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC).

In 2018, a row erupted between Chandigarh University and Panjab University over students getting confused between the two varsities during admissions. A committee was formed by the Panjab University to look into the matter. 

Sandhu, the founder of Chandigarh University, is an entrepreneur. In April, Sandhu led a delegation of Sikh NRIs and other prominent members of the community that met Prime Minister Narendra Modi under the ‘Sadbhavna programme’ in Delhi. 

In fact, just a day before the incident came to light Saturday, Sandhu was celebrating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 72nd birthday in Chandigarh by organising a free health camp, which was organised by the New India Development and the Chandigarh Welfare Trust — both founded by Sandhu. It was inaugurated by Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit, and Union Minister Smriti Irani was among the attendees

Sandhu hails from Rasulpur village in Ferozpur, Punjab, and graduated from a college in Moga in 2000. In 2001, along with Rashpal Singh Dhaliwal, he founded the Chandigarh Group of Colleges in Landran. 

From a “middle-class” farming family, Sandhu told ThePrint, he ventured into the education field with the vision to provide exemplary education and employment in Punjab. “I had noticed that a large percentage of the youth in this belt would go abroad for higher education. Keeping that in mind, the university was started and customised to provide education at par with world-famous universities and also employment opportunities through placement,” he said. 

Also Read: ‘100 ad hoc staff could lose job’ — DU English teachers protest tweak that ‘slashes workload’



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