RK Lilapati Devi
More than thirty five days have passed since the agitation started for ousting the incumbent Vice Chancellor of Manipur University, AP Pandey. It entered 39th day on the 7th July. The initial phase of agitation moved by the students’ body, MUSU alleging him of more than fifteen cases; financial and administrative irregularities, later, the teachers’ union of the varsity joined the cause insisting to clarify the allegations leveled by the students. Due to his unwillingness to engage in a dialogic / trilogic debate with the stakeholders, the protest continued. The long haul of silence of the boss was broken after twenty five days, he clarified the allegations through a press note. Aftermath, teachers and non-teaching staffs, being unsatisfied with the VC’s attitude joined the movement to remove him from his post.
Neighbourhood civil society organisations, being a part of the soil also joined the protest raising slogans like “save Manipur University”. Protest rallies, burning effigy, burning down of make -belief dead body of Prof AP Pandey, public deliberations, resignation of Deans of different schools and HoDs’ of various departments have been going on as a part of the protest. Among the allegations mention may be made of the cases are Prof A P Pandey received Y category security cover in less than a month after he joined university becoming the first vice chancellor of the University to facilitate a bullet proof vehicle costing around eighty lakhs, creating a war like zone in the campus, non – appointment of regular posts of Controller, Librarian, Curator, Engineer, his frequent outstation leave making only about 10 days a month’s availability, coming late in office and turning VC’s office a night club by indulging into non-academic activities, appointment of various non-teaching staffs without following proper guidelines like notification or advertisement for the post, failure to constitute a court of the university and so on.
The latest development in the line of strategic action in the protest is the starting of relay hunger strike by the members of MUSU, MUTA, and MUSA from the 9th July till 21st July and the storming of the gates of bungalow of CM and Governor by the enraged students. However, the response so far received or the so called designated amicable step taken up by the ruling authority is the short visit of Joint secretary of Union Ministry of HRD to take stock of the prevailing situation. He met the Governor, CM , but not any representative of MUTA. It is said he acknowledged 60% of the allegations leveled against him, but left a note to pardon VC. The protest or the revolution in Manipur University in its true sense is grounded in changing institutional structure, arenas of power and repertoires of action.
The mechanism of engagement of institutional power drawn collectively by MUTA, MUSU, MUSA speaks vehement that something is seriously ill without its timely intervention, the University will sink down to an unfathomable mark. This cannot be a case of contextualization of rule of a non-local person, a far cry from racism, the VC being an outsider to the state. His shortcomings are that, he has been into taken for granted aspects of contemporary culture of business deals of university, failing to theorize the accepted generalized legal norms, hobnobbing with the influential political figures during his leave period. Like a designer Hinduvatta cult figure in Manipuri soil, for the first time in the history of Manipur University, he did not permit to observe the foundation day of the Manipur University wherein there is a paying of obeisance to the Muslim leader, Alimuddin. Most of his actions turned out to be a radical contextualization of university practises into a Hinduvatta glorification.
Apart from that, his dictatorial whimsical nature, his selfimportant and narcissistic attitude is often being glorified in every media cuts from calendar to newspaper stories. Despite of so much of raging protests from all quarters of organisations of Manipur, Central govt.’s or State Govt’s failing to develop a prompt invasive means of monitoring public grievance is indicative of the usual apathy of hinterland issues or highly politicized institutional mechanism. Official responses are not only slow but bears a repressive face. The uproar seen in the face of the community is a dark spot in the very definition of a democratic society. The aspiration, practices and narratives of the phenomenon has prompted to arouse a critical civil movement in the society. The uproar made by the neighbourhood civil society groups is indicative of the radical aspiration of the sweat and toil our elders have put in the creation of this institute.
From discursive contextual talks to concretised harmonious aggression towards achieving the goal: demand for resignation/ replacement, making a high level independent inquiry committee, these things have created a distinct, dynamic social space constituted by individual commumity members, civil society groups, outside student wings and many political parties to save the University. Strategic actions were carved out step by step and organized among particular stakes day after day, and have claimed to garner more distinctive prolific advances towards the goal rather than playing a mere fiddle into institutional politics. MUSU resorted to material impact like burning effigy, burning the coffin of designated dead body of AP Pandey besides the protest rallies.
As a series of the protest, coming program of relay hunger strike starting from 9th July till 21st July, the storming of gates of CM and Governor by the raging students of colleges and consequent confrontation with the police personnel , subsequent admission of injured students to casualty on 7th July can be noted. However, the cry seems to be a relatively autonomous one as those concerning with influence have been impinged upon to a lesser degree. Day 39 entered on 7th July. All the noises and cry are still drowning in the din of deaf ear of the State as well as Central authority. So far, the VC and his dear ideology seems to be nested around cosy chair of BJP stars of Delhi. On the other hand, the protest became a trans-institutional movement, an activism transcending to civil society groups, teachers group of other universities, political parties and other students organization of the country. He should resign on non-negotiable moral ground or in the radical essentialist nature of a human being, the savoured self- respect, acknowledging the multifarious issue of the allegations. Wondering whether the authority is trying to gloss over the difference or resort to different tactics depending on their ideological positions: de-institutionalisation of disavowed practices or reinstitutionalisation for a new frame aimed at symbolic impact through coming to terms with the demands of the university community.
RK Lilapati Devi