Police and paramilitary forces stormed Manipur University in India’s North-Eastern region, where students and teachers were leading a movement against the ‘authoritarian behaviour and corruption’ of the Vice-Chancellor. This latest crackdown comes amidst various incidents of Indian government led by far right-wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi using police force to clamp down on dissenting voices from universities across India. Below is the report from Newsclick on the incident in which hundreds of armed personnel entered the campus, arresting many students and teachers.
In the early hours of September 21, hundreds of police personnel and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officers stormed a hostel in Manipur University in the state capital Imphal, conducted midnight raids and arrested 89 students along with six faculty members. The detained students included office-bearers, including the president of the Manipur University Students Union (MUSU) which is leading a campaign demanding an investigation into allegations of mismanagement and financial irregularities against Vice-Chancellor AP Pandey.
According to local reports, Jogeshchandra Haobam, Superintendent of Police, Imphal West, has confirmed that 89 students and six professors have been detained at different police stations.
According to sources, many students were injured during the midnight raid which saw the police accompanied by CRPF, using tear gas and mock bombs inside the campus.
‘They had a list’
Describing the incident as it unfolded, an eyewitness, on strict condition of anonymity, told Newsclick. “Around 12 a.m, I heard loud noises from the lawn in front of the boys’ hostel and that is when we left our rooms to see what was going on. The CRPF and Police had locked the main gate of the university and (they) started arguing with the students and the warden when around 400 policemen dressed in riot gear started throwing teargas shells and mock bombs in the rooms of the boys’ hostel. They even started beating students. This went on till around 3 a.m in the morning and then they arrested 86 students and six faculty members and left.”
The source claimed that the defence authorities had a “list” of students and were conducting raids on the basis of that list.
Key MUSU Office-Bearers Held
Another source, requesting anonymity, told Newsclick that all office bearers of MUSU had been arrested, except the General Secretary, Laishram Kendy, who has released a video message on Facebook stating that his life is in danger and he is in an undisclosed location. In the same video, he also alleges that, “It is not going to be a groundless claim that state government is protecting AP Pandey, and by arresting the agitating students and teachers they are trying to manipulate the files inside the academic block which will serve as Pandey’s hangman’s noose and make the enquiry committee in favour of Pandey.”
An MA student, who also requested anonymity, said this was a blatant attack on Human Rights. “This is undemocratic and inhuman. It only happens in our university and no other university in the country or even the world where so many students are arrested and beaten like we are some terrorists without any reason at all!”
According to the local papers, the incident took place after Pro Vice-Chancellor Y Yugindro Singh, appointed by vice-chancellor AP Pandey — who is on a leave — entered the university complex to take charge as the V-C on Thursday afternoon. However, whether these two incidents are co-related could not be verified as the students claimed that there was no agitation going on because second-semester exams are underway.
There is a strong sentiment among the university community that the midnight raids were pre-planned, as the students had questioned the police as to why they had come searching for students at such an odd hour when they knew that exams were going. Sources suspect that the midnight raids were conducted after confirming that newspapers had gone to press.
In a press conference held by the Congress on Friday, former Chief Minister, Okram Ibobi Singh, termed the incident as undemocratic. He said that the Congress will not stand as a mute spectator. “In order to bring about a state of normalcy, the government should release the students and the teachers they picked up on Thursday night,” he said. He also added that a proper channel of dialogue between the government, the university authorities and the students’ and teachers, the body should be initiated.
At present, the university has a heavy presence of para-military forces and no student is being allowed to leave the campus as well as their rooms. The exams have been postponed. The state has cut down mobile internet service for the next five days and so far, there is no information about those arrested, no chargesheet has been filed and neither has the government issued any statement.
Condemning the crackdown and extending their solidarity, students’ union of New Delhi based Jawaharlal Nehru University, which recently witnessed a series of right-wing violence after the massive victory of Communist students’ alliance in elections, demanded the release of Students and teachers immediately.