The Imphal-based Manipur University had only just begun to recover from three-month-long protests against former vice-chancellor Adya Prasad Pandey.
New Delhi: Manipur University is again on lockdown four weeks after a fragile peace returned to the campus following three months of unrest.
At least 55 women students in the five girl’s hostels on the campus have been on a hunger strike since 24 September, demanding the release of six professors and seven students taken into judicial custody on 21 September following a surprise midnight raid.
The raid followed a letter written by acting vice-chancellor Y. Yugindro Singh to police on 20 September, a copy of which is with ThePrint.
In the letter, Singh alleged that members of the Manipur University Teachers Association (MUTA) and the Manipur University Students Association (MUSA) had forced him and the registrar in-charge, M. Shyamkesho Singh, into a room, harassed them, and forced him to sign papers for “misuse purposes (sic)”.
The fresh disturbance came just as hundreds of students had begun to appear for their examinations. Already off schedule by months, the examinations have been suspended again. And so have the classes.
“We really want the exams to take place and the entire situation is extremely distressing for us,” Marrya, a second-year master’s student participating in the hunger strike, told ThePrint.
Allegations of financial manipulation, poor management and arbitrary appointments by former vice-chancellor Adya Prasad Pandey had triggered the earlier round of protests, which started in May and saw the deans of the university’s six schools and 32 heads of departments resign in solidarity with the students.
The university had resumed functioning on 23 August, just over three weeks after Pandey was sent on a month’s leave by an inquiry committee formed in July by the union human resource development ministry.
Pandey, who earlier taught at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), returned to Manipur University on 1 September, stating that his leave had ended on 31 August.
He then moved court against a memorandum of understanding signed on 18 August by the ministry, the state government, the MUTA and the MUSA, which stated that he would be under suspension till the inquiry was over.
When the students protested, President Ram Nath Kovind, the chancellor, suspended Pandey on 17 September till the inquiry is underway.
However, just before leaving, Pandey appointed Yugindro Singh as the pro-V-C to serve his role in his absence — a power he does not hold under the Manipur University Act, 2005. Pandey also banned the MUTA and the MUSA from the campus.
Protests started again on 20 September, when Pandey accompanied Singh as he arrived on campus to take charge, both of them reportedly accompanied by a huge, armed security cover.
That’s also the day Singh wrote to police alleging harassment by students. Later that night, between 12.30 am and 1 am, around 200 personnel of Manipur police and the Indian Reserve Battalion, a supporting unit of state police, reportedly entered the five boy’s hostels and began random searches.
When some students protested, the personnel deployed tear gas shells to disperse the crowd, a student who witnessed the incident told ThePrint.
According to local media reports, 89 students and six professors were detained by police at various police stations in the state capital. They were produced before a local court, which remanded the professors and seven students in judicial custody.
On the ground
As of now, only 200 of the 1,400 inmates remain in the 10 hostels on campus, while others have been called home by their families. Examinations stand halted. Classes remain suspended.
“It is a question of our future. We are already running late in our schedule and now all of this has made the situation more chaotic,” a second-year master’s student told ThePrint.
“What can I say? It is just apathy of the government,” the student added.
Six student outfits, including the powerful All Manipur Students Union, had called for a 48-hrs general strike on 24 September, demanding the unconditional release of those arrested. However, they still remain under police custody.
State officials were unavailable for comment, and the HRD ministry is yet to issue a statement on the fresh fracas.
According to a report in Firstpost, chief minister Biren Singh has justified the police crackdown by citing past instances of violence on the campus.