Strike called by students’ union paralyses life in Manipur

Imphal: Normal life was paralysed in Manipur for the second day today due to a 48-hour general strike called by the Manipur University Students’ Union, demanding the removal of the university vice-chancellor.

Manipur chief minister N. Biren Singh said the state government fully empathised with the students and teachers of the university and the issues they had brought up.

Educational institutes, shops, markets and government offices were closed and vehicular movement remained suspended due to the strike, the police said.

The protesters blocked roads in various localities, including at Kongpal and Wangkhei in Imphal East district, Wangjing and Thoubal Bazaar in Thoubal district and Thangmeiband in Imphal West district.

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They burnt tyres and put up barricades in the middle of the road at some places, the police said.

Heavy security was deployed in the vicinity of the chief minister’s bungalow, Raj Bhavan and the surrounding areas of the high-security zone, they added.

The security was beefed up after a large number of protestors tried to forcibly enter the Raj Bhavan, the main office of the BJP in the state and the secretariat on July 16 and 17, the police said, adding that over ten students and two security personnel were injured in an ensuing scuffle.

Director general of police L.M. Khaute said the strike was by and large peaceful and all the 17 students arrested yesterday, were released last night itself.

The strike was called by the Manipur University Students’ Union and supported by various other student and civil bodies, demanding the removal of Manipur University vice-chancellor Adya Prasad Pandey and an independent probe against him for his alleged financial irregularities and administrative negligence.

The strike was backed by the All Manipur Students’ Union, the Democratic Students’ Alliance of Manipur (DESAM) and the Manipur Students’ Federation among others.

All academic activity has remained suspended at the central university for the last 50 days as the teachers’ and staff associations are also demanding Pandey’s removal.

The chief minister told reporters that the state government had urged the Centre to form a fact-finding committee, headed by a retired chief justice of a high court, to look into the allegations against Pandey.

“If found guilty, he should be ousted from his post,” Singh, who spoke to the reporters after visiting an injured DESAM leader at a hospital here, said.

The DESAM leader’s left hand got fractured after being hit by a truck during a scuffle with the security forces on July 16 at Nityaipat Chuthek, in front of the BJP office.

Two policemen were suspended in connection to the incident today, police sources said.

The human resource development (HRD) ministry had formed a fact-finding committee on July 12 to look into the matter, but it was re-constituted after a BJP delegation, led by the chief minister, met HRD minister Prakash Javadekar.

The panel will now be headed by retired chief justice of the Meghalaya high court T. Nandakumar with representatives of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the HRD ministry as its members.

The students, however, have described the re-constitution as an “eyewash” and said they will not cooperate with the new committee. The Manipur University Teachers’ Association has also said it will not allow any official to enter the university campus.

Spokesperson of the Manipur University Teachers’ Association N. Devanand told PTI that the committee was neither an independent one nor a judicial panel, as demanded by them.

The chief minister met governor Najma Heptulla at the Raj Bhavan yesterday to discuss the university issue, Raj Bhavan sources said.

The governor has also apprised President Ram Nath Kovind of the situation concerning the university, the sources added.

(PTI)