As many as 284 well-known scholars and civil rights leaders, including Noam Chomsky and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, have asked President Ram Nath Kovind to intervene in the recent arrest of teachers and students of the Manipur University and ensure their immediate release. Witnessing unrest for the last three months, university students and teachers had been demanding removal of Vice-Chancellor AP Pandey over financial and administrative irregularities. Following an inquiry, Pandey was suspended on September 17, and K Yugindro Singh took charge.
When students and teachers attempted to highlight that Singh’s appointment violated the accord made between the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the Manipur government and the Manipur University Community, as many as six teachers and nine students were arrested following Singh’s complaint against them on charges of attempt to murder and kidnapping.
Text of the letter sent to the President of India:
We, the undersigned academics and members of civil society, unequivocally condemn the arbitrary arrest and incarceration of six teachers and nine students of Manipur University. Six teachers and seven students have been sent to judicial custody for fifteen days, and the remaining two students for five days.
The arrests have been made under sections of the Indian Penal Code that invoke ‘an attempt to murder’, ‘wrongful confinement’, ‘extortion’, ‘kidnapping’ and ‘criminal conspiracy’ on the basis of a complaint made by Manipur University faculty, K. Yugindro Singh (and the suspended registrar M. Shyamkesho) on charges of attempt to murder and kidnapping. The six arrested professors — Dr. N. Santomba, (Dept. of. Manipuri), Prof. Chungkham Yashawanta (Dept. of Linguistics, also Dean of Humanities, and in-charge Dean of Students Welfare), Prof. Sougaijam Dorendrajit (Dept. of. Physics and Registrar-in-charge), Dr. L. Bishwanath Sharma (Dept. of. Philosophy), Prof. L. Sanjukumar (Dept. of. Biotechnology and Secretary MUTA), and Dr. Yengkhom Raghumani (Dept. of. Earth Sciences) have also been suspended with immediate effect. Following these arrests, the Manipur University campus has been turned into a cantonment, the boys hostel has had tear gas shells and mock bombs rained down upon it all of Thursday night (20 September), Internet services shut down, and all normal academic life has come to a complete halt.
Manipur University has witnessed a peaceful (in the face of great police brutality) 85 day long united agitation by its teachers, students, and staff asking for the removal of the Vice-Chancellor A P Pandey, and the constitution of an Independent Enquiry Committee to look into the allegations of his administrative and financial lapses. This agitation was successful, with a probe being announced on August 16, 2018 and the VC being placed on suspension pending inquiry on 18 September 2018. The details of the egregious misdemeanours of the suspended VC that have formed the basis of agitation by the greater student and teacher communities and have been the cause of disruption of academic activities, are to be found in the news item links provided below.
With the agitation called off, Manipur University was in the process of conducting long-delayed semester examinations. K. Yugindro Singh’s attempt to assume charge as pro-VC on the strength of a suspended VC’s 10 order is unquestionably superseded by the Sept. 18 accord between MHRD, Manipur Government, and the Manipur University community. Since August 3, Prof. Viswanath Singh has served as VC in-charge, so designated by the MHRD itself on August 2.
It was in this context that the members of the MU community engaged with K. Yugindro (and M. Shyamkesho) to dissuade him from plunging the university into a crisis. That there was no attempt to kidnap or murder is clearly evidenced by the fact that the two faculty were unharmed after the meeting, and at full liberty to make the complaint personally. If anything, the conspiracy seems to be on the other side, as latest reports are that K. Yugindro Singh has assumed charge as acting VC of Manipur University (a ceremony that was attended by not even one faculty member) on the instructions purportedly issued by MHRD on Sept. 19. This gives truth to the charge being made in Manipur University that the police action and arrests of the professors and students enjoys political patronage by both the state and central BJP-RSS governments. The aim of this ‘invasion’ was to create conditions that will simultaneously derail or tamper with the probe against AP Pandey, wreak retribution on the Manipur University community and particularly MUSU for their successful agitation, and serve as a chilling warning to all universities whose constituents dare to challenge corruption, arbitrary and unethical conduct by BJP-RSS appointees as heads of their institutions.
Our appeal is to the Visitor of Manipur University, the President of India. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of all teachers and students of Manipur University arrested on 21 September and after, and a withdrawal of all charges and suspension orders. We also demand a removal of Yugindro Singh as VC in charge and a restoration of Prof. Viswanath Singh as VC in-charge, and Prof. Sougaijam Dorendrajit as registrar in-charge, and a strict adherence to all terms of the Memorandum of Agreement henceforth. 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.”
Click HERE for the list of signatories