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Manipur University: A Den of Insurgents or A Den of Innovative and Reconciliatory Ideas?

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Prof.  Homendra Naorem
Department of Chemistry, Manipur University

Manipur  University  (MU)  had  continuously  hogged  the  headlines  of  all  the  print  and electronic media across the state for nearly three months without a break consequent upon the  agitation  for  the  ouster  of  the  present  (?)  Vice  Chancellor,  Prof  AP  Pandey,  which  the  University community believed is detrimental to preserving the sacrosanctity of the Manipur  University and also to safeguard the future academic health of the state. The demand for the removal of Prof Pandey, who allegedly had since been cast, satirically though, as the modern ‘Shantidas Gossain’ of Manipur University (as reported in the media), has by and large been endorsed by the majority of the general public of Manipur by way of showing their solidarity with the striking community of the  University  but with a note of concern  to be circumspect about the fate of the sixth semester students who are anxiously awaiting their results. On the other  hand,  through  this  protracted  agitation  for  the  removal  of  Prof  Pandey,  Manipur University had successfully awakened the entire populace of the state to the wind of change that is sweeping the entire country including Manipur perhaps with a determination to slowly hasten the process of letting the innocent public succumb to the changes so designed. While some would easily submit themselves willingly or otherwise to the sugar coated high voltage temptation only to become a prisoner of their own eventually, there are others who prefer to hold onto their own grounds at any cost giving a damn to such seductive allurements.
The  MU  community  in  a  rare  show  of  unanimity  had  chosen  to  protect  the  sanctity  of  the University from such sporadic whirlwinds of redefining course. The solid rock like solidarity the  University  community  had  displayed  for  such  a  long  period  of  time,  perhaps,  had  taken the powers that be at the state as well as the centre by complete surprise baffling them at the same  time  as  implied  by  the  much  procrastinated  responses  that  came  in  equal  number  of  instalments!  Though  one  can  argue  that  the  centre  under  immense  pressure  from  the  state government compelled by the unrelenting attitude of the striking community had willy-nilly conceded,  more  or  less,  the  main  demand  of  the  University  community,  the  good  will  or intent of the centre, if any, had unfortunately been lost in the midst of its foot-dragging piece meal  approach  to  the  whole  issue  widening  further  the so called ‘trust deficit’  between  the parties involved. Otherwise, a mutually acceptable mechanism for hammering out a workable temporally solution (at least) would have emerged sooner rather than later. Now that the hard negotiated  Memorandum  of  Agreement  (MoA)  has  been  arrived  at  and  mutually  signed, keeping in view the public concern for the academic career of the sixth semester students, it has  already  paved the way for a tactical ‘temporary truce’.  Though  the  temporary  solution leaves  the  University  community  much  to  be  desired,  the  fact  that  the  process  of normalization  has  been  initiated  at  the  earliest  opportunity  in  the  larger  interest  of  the students’ community has  clearly  shown  that  the  MU  community  is  not  insensitive  to  the public appeal.    
The most unique feature of the  agitation had been its complete adherence to  the democratic forms  of  protest  all  through  without  a  single  incident  of  violence  whatsoever,  setting  yet another example by the University community to the public at large that one does not have to be violent to be heard but should have enough patience! As the saying goes, incessant rains pop  out  the  old  potty,  all  sorts  of  allegations  and  accusations  had  been  levelled  against  the striking  students  to  somehow  stymie  the  peaceful  agitation.  The  first  one  being  that  the students  started  the  agitation  when  VC  Pandey  had  refused  to  heed  to  their  demand  for increased  money  for  publication  of  the  University  magazine.  If it was so,  he  could  have thwarted their move right at the initial stages by ensuring transparency and accountability for the  extra  amount  claimed.  The  second  accusation  was  that  the  students  were  instigated  by some proscribed organizations when their demand for a huge sum of money was turned down by Prof Pandey – yes, he had scooped down even to that level. Under normal circumstances, as and when one receives such a ‘demand letter’, one immediately notifies the nearest police station, which Prof Pandey did not. Instead, he had allegedly chosen to apprise of the matter to the centre. Actually, no one took him seriously on that count, too. But the nastiest one of all  was  the  failed  attempt  to  let  the  Dr  Kamal  Indoor  Stadium  burn  down  with  mala  fide intention  of  maligning  the  whole  movement  as  the  handiwork  of  some  antisocial  elements!
This  would  have  given  the  justification  needed  for  deployment  of  security  forces  inside  the campus to break open the locked offices of the University administration. In hindsight, if the striking  students  had  any  evil  intent  of  resorting  to  violent  activities,  many  such  incidents would  have  followed  the  failed  attempt.  But that just did not happen.  On  the  contrary,  the students  became  more  vigilant  especially  in  the  night  after  that  unfortunate  incident  which put  a  complete  full  stop  to  such  nefarious  activities.  Yet,  every  dirty  trick  in  the  book  was used to brand the  entire  MU community as antisocial  just because they  happened to be in  a ‘conflict zone’ with AFSPA unfortunately hanging like the sword of Damocles. Any form of protest or demand by the people especially in the north eastern region or Jammu & Kashmir, which is not to the liking of the powers that be, is painted, more often than not, as antisocial or  antinational  like ‘Blame it on  Rio’ syndrome. On  the  contrary,  a  follow  up  of  the  trails aftermath the attempted ‘arson’ led to flushing out of a large number of unauthorized guests (obviously  from  outside  the  state)  in  the  University  guest  house.  The whole episode in the end turned out to be the classic example of ‘Man proposes and God disposes’ and ‘God’s will cannot but be undone’. What an astonishing coincidence!
Then came like the ‘little boy’ of Hiroshima when an honourable member of the parliament during  the  course  of  a  debate  on  the  issue  of  the  then  impasse  in  Manipur  University reportedly  stated  that  Manipur  University,  inter  alia,  is  a  den  of  insurgents!  Not  a  single member  of  parliament  including  those  who  represent  Manipur  put  up  any  objection  to  that very  statement  which  may  be  interpreted  as  their  tacit  approval  of  the  statement!  It  was notwithstanding the fact that the honourable Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, had inaugurated the  105th  Indian  Science  Congress  on  Mar  16,  2018  in  the  ambience  of  Manipur  University which has now been proclaimed as den of insurgents. If Manipur University is, indeed, a den of  insurgents,  why  was  the  science  congress  re-scheduled  here  in  the  Manipur  University which  had  to  be  inaugurated  by  the  Prime  Minister  of  India  unless  it  became  den  of insurgents  within  this  short  time  interval? Won’t it signify serious lapses in the intelligence and the security of the country? All the delegates of the science congress during the five days of  the  congress  (Mar  16-20,  2018)  developed  good  friendship  with  the  MU  community especially  the  student  volunteers  in  this  den  of  insurgents.  Prior  to  the  Science  Congress,  a  joint  conference  of  the  Vice  Chancellors  of  all  the  Universities  in  the  north  eastern  region was  also  held  in  this  very  den  of  insurgents.  A  large  number  of  subject  experts  including examiners keep visiting the den of insurgents in connection with different activities from time to time. Till now there has never been a case where the visiting delegates, experts, guests or invitees  expressed  any  concern  for  their  safety  or  threat  to  their  life  during  their  stay  in Manipur University except expressing their willingness to come back for another assignment.
All  these  facts  only  establish  that  either the statement, ‘Manipur University is den of insurgents’ is totally motivated and bereft of any logic or the students and the teachers in this very den of insurgents are very friendly people who have, indeed, become good friends with their counterparts from all over the country. In spite of all these, Manipur University has been dubbed  as  den  of  insurgents,  that  too,  in  the  parliament  of  the  country!  What  can  be  more unfortunate than this?  
A  University  is  not  just  an  assembly  line  for  production  of  graduates,  post  graduates  and PhDs  but  a  place  where  education  at  higher  level  is  provided  imparting  the  much  needed component  of  human  development  for  critical  thinking  and  analytical  skills.  University  is also a place where every possible permutation and combination of ideas, however crazy they may  be,  are  allowed  to  be  experimented  with,  and  where  hundreds  and  hundreds  of  diverse opinions are allowed to be freely debated and discussed, and where tolerance is the key word to  every  dissenting  views.  Most importantly,  in  the  words  of  John  Henry  Newman,  it  is  the ideal place where inquiry is pushed forward, discoveries verified and perfected, error exposed by the collision of mind with mind, and knowledge with knowledge, and if I may add, not by pitting muscles against muscles, might against might, and arms against arms. It is precisely in this context that the Manipur University community has risen up to once again reaffirm that a University will not tolerate any act of autocracy, hegemony, omission and commission, abuse of power while in office, etc. aimed at tarnishing the unimpeachable image of the University.
When teachers who are a necessary component of social changes are recycled as instruments of  syllabus  change  or  systemic  change  of  the  character  of  the  institutes  of  higher  learning, what would come out of such institutes? Just because the MU community has stood up for the sanctity of the University against such designs as it has always risen, will you call it a den of insurgents  or  an  oasis  providing  hope  for  the  subjugated  people  or  den  of  innovative  and reconciliatory  ideas?  As  Bob  Dylan  would  have  enlightened  us  all, ‘Yes,  how  many  times must  a  man  look  up,  before  he  can  see  the  sky?  Yes, how many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry? Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind!’ Amen. 

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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