A university falls silent in the NE

A university falls silent in the NE

Submitted by alvin on Fri, 2016-11-18 11:48 The process of admission to various post-graduate courses in Manipur University usually begins in June- July. The campus would be bustling with newcomers, activities and campus events by September. But this year the campus wears a deserted look. There are virtually no tribal students in the campus. Tribal students ‘walked out’ of the campus when university authorities did not adhere to the policy of reservation 31�eats for ST students for the academic year 2016-2017. Tribal students held protest demonstrations in front of the main university gate, which was followed by a ‘mass exodus’ and a rally in Imphal. Student bodies in five tribal hill districts (Churachandpur, Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong and Chandel) also took out a protest rally. "Nobody is back in the university campus. We are all outside/elsewhere,” says Thangtinlen Haokip, a student of Education Department and President of Manipur University Tribal Student’s Union (MUTSU).  With the agitation continuing, the campus has a high chance of clashes between students groups belonging to different categories - tribals and non-tribals, STs and non-STs.  “At the moment the campus is not safe especially for tribal student leaders,” says Haokip. Speaking to this writer, Haokip, who is coordinating protest and economic blockade, informed that tribals students had called for an indefinite economic blockade from October 28 midnight along the National Highways (NH 39 and NH 53)   Not surprisingly, Manipur Police are on high alert as tribal students announced blockade along the infamous national highway. Economic blockade called by students groups and civil society along this national highway in the past witnessed several violence – burning down of goods, vehicles and even clashes – between police and protestors in the past. The two highways, being the lifeline of the state, have always been targeted during protestors. Haokip says there are always people who violate the call during the blockade. “We are protesting democratically, demanding our right for reservation without violence, but we are being dealt with with force. Now since we are calling for economic blockade, security force will be even more doubly harsh on us,” he says.    After great difficulty, this writer was able to get in touch with Vareiyo Shatshang, General Secretary of All Tribal Student’s Union,Manipur (ATSUM). “I had deliberately switched off my phone to avoid the police who are hunting student leaders to maintain law and order,” he says. Ever since it became a central university, Manipur University has been following the reservation policy of the CEI- Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act 2006. Under this Act, 7.5�eats are reserved for ST, 15�or SC and 27�or OBC. Obviously this percentage of reservation does not correspond to the population of Manipur where tribal population is 35.1�f Manipur’s total population.  Manipur‘s SC population stands at 97042, which is only 3.8�f the total state population. There is no mention of OBC in the population census. Therefore, the calculation of the percentage of reservation for the OBC category remains a grey area. Until 2005, when Manipur University was a state university, 31pc of the seats were reserved for STs while reservation for SCs stood at 2�But it went up as high as 15�n 2006. Meanwhile, reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) was 17pc until 2005 but went up to a whopping 27�nder the Central University 2006 Act. According to student leaders Haokip and Shatshang, numerous representations were submitted to the Centre, state and university authorities to review the reservation policy. After five years, the 2006 Act was amended in 2012. As per Gazette of India published on June 19, 2012, the following amendments were made: “In section 2 of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Amendment Act, 2006 (hereinafter referred to as the principal Act), after clause (i), the following clauses of section2 shall be inserted, namely: '(ia)"specified north-eastern region" means the area comprising of the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and the tribal areas of Assam referred to in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution. Surprisingly, tribals students and the tribal population in Manipur were kept in the dark about the 2012 amendment.   “We came to know about the amendment only after about 2 years,” says ATSUM leader Shatshang.  Students received confirmed when President Pranab Mukherjee visited the university in April 2014 for the 14th convocation. “We had an opportunity to meet the President. We submitted a representation (memorandum) to increase ST reservation. It was then that he (President) told us that an amendment(s) had been made,” says MUTSU leader Haokip. The reason for not informing students about the amendment remains a secret. “When we inquired, we were given vague reasons such as the intimation letter (of the amendment) was mistakenly sent to a wrong address - Manipal University and therefore did not reach Manipur,” says Vareiyo Shatshang. Two VCs have resigned over the impasse. A new VC, Prof Adya Prasad Pandey (Banaras Hindu University), took charge recently. According to MU tribal student union leader Thangtinlen Haokip nothing has happened in the campus yet. Classes are to start by November 7 but admissions haven’t started and tribal students haven’t been seen in the campus. Currently, there is silence in the university, with several other issues cropping up and student's concern taking a back seat. Who bothers about education and future of the youth anyway? This is not the first unrest the university witnessed over the reservation issue. As in other years, reservation issue crops up every now and then unless MU authorities are prepared to follow norms and policy, and are committed to transparency amidst the highly charge atmosphere. Manipur University authorities should understand that such unnecessary evils are not created by vested interests or for political mileage. The potential of youths - students in an already crisis/conflict-ridden and polarised state - should not be overlooked and underestimated. With the university having been upgraded to a central university, Manipur University can show maturity and maintain a dignified position as a premier institution in the state. This would not only be healthy for the campus but for the future generations in the state.