Centre must understand the ‘seriousness’ of the crisis besieging Manipur University

Thongam Sunil Singh

Jawaharlal Nehru’s views on the aims of education bear resemblance to Tagore’s ideas, because both of them are firm internationalists and humanists. In his address to the students of Allahabad University, he had said, “a university stands for humanism, for tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search for truth.”

In India, the debate on nationalism made a reluctant comeback after JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was slapped with sedition charge for taking part in a controversial event in the campus where anti-national slogans were allegedly raised. The controversy then took an ugly turn when Kumar and a few journalists were heckled by lawyers inside the Patiala House Courts Complex. His arrest not only sparked a countrywide debate on nationalism but also a series of protests as the ruling dispensation and other right-wing organizations branded JNU president and students as “anti-national.”

In the wake of intensified agitation, an ‘unsigned’ statement issued by PRO office of Manipur University notified all concerned that any form of procession, rally, agitation, sit-in protest and hunger strike inside the university campus is against the Code of Conduct of the university’s ordinance. It requested all the students, teachers and non-teaching staff of the university to abide by the Code of Conduct and to refrain from such ‘unlawful acts’. The Vice Chancellor has also made an appeal to the public and students organizations to make education a ‘free zone’ in the larger interest of the student community.

Vice Chancellor of Manipur University, Prof Adya Prasad Pandey has made it to the headlines for the controversy he has allegedly created, like financial and administrative irregularities and refusing to step down. His appointment has been marred by controversy. Pandey has his contention that a Rs 5 crore demand note allegedly served to him by an underground group has attracted the ongoing impasse at the central university.

Has Pandey paid the money to the militant outfit? If that is the case, perhaps the case of monetary demand is an implicit assertion from his side on the key reason behind the alleged financial and administrative irregularities. Then there is a lot at stake because Pandey is taking a big risk.

He is still clinging to his standpoint but it seems his chances of continuing as Vice Chancellor are now slim with the protesters sticking to their demand. The protest is snowballing into intensified agitation. Prof Pandey has accused Manipur University Students’ Union (MUSU) of trying to discredit him and put his office in a bad light in all imaginable ways.

That being said, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has finally formed an inquiry panel to probe allegations against Prof Pandey. A Professor of Economics at BHU, Pandey still has over three years left in his term.

Despite great efforts put in by the state government, the on-going impasse at the Manipur University remains locked in the stalemate between MUSU backed by Manipur University Teachers’ Association (MUTA) and Manipur University Staffs’ Association (MUSA), and the authority concerned.

MUSU dubbed the fact finding committee constituted by HRD to probe into charges against Pandey as a low level and unacceptable one. Students of the university are on strike since May 31 demanding Prof Pandey’s resignation leaving the institute at stake.

A quick solution is central. A proper government must understand the true cost of the ongoing MU crisis. Above all, it makes no sense to delay in finding an amicable solution to the crisis because the prevailing situation created by the impasse is very bad for the student community.

Thongam Sunil Singh is a journalist based in Manipur.

The author can be contacted at sunilth17@gmail.com

(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. TIME8 neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)