The midnight raids in Manipur University on September 20, that led to the arrest of about 90 students and six teachers were conducted on the basis on an FIR filed by Pro-Vice Chancellor K Yugindro Singh, whose appointment following the suspension of the VC, AP Pandey, has been questioned by the student and teacher communities. Following the arrests on Thursday, some students and teachers have been remanded to judicial custody.
Meanwhile, Professor W Vishwanath, the senior-most professor in the two-member committee that is conducting an inquiry into the alleged financial irregularities by Pandey, said that a complaint had been lodged with the committee. The complaint pertained to Yugindro Singh breaking the lock to the VC’s office, which had been sealed by the committee till the duration of the inquiry into VC AP Pandey’s dealings.
At around midnight on September 20, a raid took place on the boys’ hostels in the Manipur University, a central university. Police and paramilitary forces fired teargas shells into the hostels following which they arrested 89 students and six teachers. There are allegations the police had a list of names beforehand. On September 22, the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Imphal remanded seven students and six teachers to judicial custody for 15 days and two students to police custody for five days. The Manipur University Students Union cultural secretary is one of the two students in police custody. The remaining students have been released.
The raids were conducted based on a First Information Report (FIR) filed by Yugindro Singh, who according to the Imphal Free Press, has a history of not being particularly ethical. He had earlier courted controversy when he installed three telescopes which belonged to the university in his home. He argued that the telescopes had been bought by prize money he won for his department. However, he was accused of ensuring that only his favourite students could use them. In the 1990s, Singh opposed a fast track merit promotion scheme. He alleged that this scheme was opaque and would result in favouritism. However, when he was selected for promotion through the scheme, his criticism ended. The FIR alleged that during the day of September 20, the Pro VC was attacked by students using deadly weapons, such as sticks and stones.
However, according to reports, what transpired that day was a little different. The students had resolved not to allow Yugindro Singh to enter the campus, as he had been appointed by Pandey in violation of the existing laws. As per the norm, the senior-most professor would be given the charge of Pro VC, which Yugindro Singh is not. Pandey, who was at the centre of the unrest in the university was under forced leave. Following his forced leave, he appointed Yugindro singh as the Pro VC. However, casual leave and forced leave are two different things. During casual leave a person can still exercise official powers. However, forced leave is more like a suspension.
When Professor Yugindro reached the campus on September 22, the students tried to prevent him from entering as they did not accept him as the Pro VC. However, he forcefully entered the campus. Following this, some student representatives decided to pose questions to him. He agreed but wished for the discussion to be held in a closed room. The students said they agreed to this request as they did not wish to cause any further embarrassment. Some of the more incensed students waited outside with eggs to hurl at him. In the course of the discussion, Yugindro Singh allegedly agreed with the students that his appointment was not proper and signed a document to that effect. Following the discussion, when he was leaving, the students threw eggs on his car.
Hence, Yugindro Singh filed an FIR, wherein he is said to have mentioned being kidnapped and held against his will in a room where he was grilled for two to three hours after which he was ‘forced’ to sign some documents. The eggs thown at his car became ‘stones’ in his FIR. Coincidentally, it was only after the arrests on September 20, that Yugindro Singh broke the seal on the VC’s office. There are speculations that he did this to ensure that the inquiry against Pandey fails.
Meanwhile, academics and civil society members have appealed to the President, who is the Visitor of the university, to ensure unconditional release of all teachers and students and withdrawal of all charges, as well as restoration of Vishwanath Singh as VC in-charge,
“Our reasons for these demands are best put in the words that the Visitor himself used in his order suspending AP Pandey: "in the interest of justice for free and fair enquiry", the appeal added.
Amid all these arrests, what is interesting is that a Bharatiya Janata Party member, Prahlad Singh Patel, has blamed the student unrest in Manipur University on the campus being a ‘den of undergrounds’. So, one question that begs an answer is: Was the police action in BJP-ruled Manipur in line with this comment?