An Unbiased Retake on the Issues That Paralyze the Manipur University

Prof. Homendra Naorem*

DESAM Protest to remove MU VC Prof Adya Prasad Pandey at BJP Head Office :: July 16 2018
DESAM Protest to remove MU VC Prof Adya Prasad Pandey on July 16 2018 :: Pix - Shanker Khangembam

The protracted stalemate in the Manipur University arising out of the demand for the removal of the present Vice Chancellor (VC) of University, Prof. AP Pandey, allegedly an influential individual, has already begun affecting the academic prospects and career of almost all the students of the State like a termite infects the wood of trees. The present agitation, therefore, has refused to remain as an isolated one localized within the four walls of the University when the fate of the large number of innocent students of Manipur continues to hang in the balance for no fault of them.

It was indeed very frustrating to witness the inhuman treatment of the students, who were compelled to take to the street braving all odds, by the fellow compatriots in the state security forces. Has the 'inhuman treatment' meted out to the students taken us any closer to the solution? Even after the brutal scene, the University unfortunately continue to be in the same state of 'lock-out' for nearly two months with no imminent solution in sight apparently in absence of any meaningful intervention either from the state or central government. Why are we not learning the lesson that use of violence or excessive force does not in any way help solving any issue? Is it not a futile and counter productive move?

The stoic silence from the powers that be at the center only helped stirring the conscience of every right thinking member of the society obligating them to construe this 'conspiracy of silence' as part of a larger systemic design to baptize the University into an alien faith, belief or culture. Suspicious of such an evil design, all the student bodies in the state, local clubs and civil society organizations including "Meira Paibees' have voluntarily joined the democratic agitation for the removal of the present VC to save Manipur University from the clutches of those who believe in and practice dogmatism like a guided missile.

Imagine the speed at which the University will be gyrating if the character or the color, if you like, of the University were to change in tune with the powers that be at the state or the center given the political instability in the country that requires frequent changes in the nature or color of 'the power'. While the University would remain totally occupied to orchestrate to sing in tune with the 'power', academics naturally would be taking a back seat - this is already happening in the country right now.

Already the JNU teachers' association, federation of Central University teachers, and many others have not only extended moral support but also appreciated MUTA, MUSU and MUSA for spearheading the movement against such nefarious activities. As recent as on Jul 11, All India Students' Federation, AISF braving the security barrier stormed the office of the MHRD demanding immediate sacking of the present VC of Manipur University with a loud and clear message to stop undue interferences in the Universities across the country citing even political reasons, which I decide not to trespass.

Like it or not, if the talks doing the rounds in the campus and also the social media are any indication, Manipur University would soon become the epicenter of such a crusade against the outrageous design to destroy the 'diversity' which has been one of the basic characters of all the Universities in the country and install 'controlled diversity' through hegemony. The movement has naturally spread all over the country and is slowly but steadily become a national movement!

A unique character of the Manipur University unlike many others in the country, as we all know, is its 'apolitical nature' with unblemished image of steering clear of any political influence or interference. Even though there are people among the teachers, the staff, or even the students having political affiliations, they never ever indulge in any kind of activities in the campus that would tantamount to promotion of the ideology of a political party or political campaign. What they do in their private life outside the University campus, of course, is altogether a different issue which warrants no snooping from any quarter.

A glaring example to that effect is the case of one of the former Vice Chancellors of Manipur University who later on was elected as an MLA from an assembly constituency in the Imphal east district. During his tenure, the former VC despite the power and influence at his disposal, never indulged in any political activity or campaign in the campus that would reveal his political color and, in fact, no one in the University had any inkling of the political party of his choice. Such is the character of the Manipur University and the dignity of the person(s) who have been in the chair of the Vice Chancellor of Manipur University unlike the present incumbent who would sadistically disclose his political color at the drop of a hat.

This is evident from his implicit acceptance of having extended pecuniary assistance in return for running an advertisement for the University in a magazine (newsletter?) published by an organization that has clear inclination to a particular political party or an ideology. One fails to understand the need to run an advertisement for the Manipur University in a magazine and not in a state or national newspaper or publication.

A frail attempt to justify such an immoral trespass citing his predecessor will not help exonerating him from such gaffes. Because two wrongs will never make a right and both of them (if the other one had also committed) should be made to pay for the unacceptable misadventure. Otherwise, Vijay Mallya will be an alibi for Nirav Modi and vice versa entering into an infinite loop of cyclical argument! QED.

In a much belated and equally beleaguered response, the present VC through a monotonous press conference tried to shield himself by imprudently empowering himself with a caveat that he is not answerable to any kind of unfounded and untrue allegations - a case of self-exoneration by passing an order in one's own favor in a kangaroo court before the allegations are put to any proper or judicial trial.

In a lighter vein, the circulated 'printed response' is much akin to the phenomenon of 'osmosis' in which the vital information like the solutes molecules are retained while sending out the not-so-innocuous emotional outbursts like the solvent molecules oozing out through a semipermeable membrane! Only a well-designed 'reverse osmosis' with penetrative solvent molecules can expose the true nature of the hidden solute molecules and why they are camouflaged.

The indication from the Center to investigate the 'charges' on the strong initiative from the State Government through a departmental type of enquiry vis-a-vis the demand of a high level independent enquiry is a rather belated action, that too, coming in slow motion. It is, however, not clear if the delayed 'action in slow motion' from the Center would be able to cool down, if not douse, the temper that is running very high at present.

Unless some mystery or miracle happen, the general perception is that there are already enough indelible foot prints left for the truth to be re-established especially with respect to charges related to lack of punctuality and discipline, like coming late to the office, improper absence without proper leave or entrustment of the office to an in-charge who also is on leave, behaving in an unbecoming manner in ungodly hours in office, violation of the University Act, financial irregularities, etc.

When a big tree had fallen in the midst of a storm in a thick forest in the middle of a night, one cannot argue that the tree had not fallen because no one heard any noise when the tree had actually fallen ignoring the tell tales and the foot prints. In all likelihood, if the so instituted departmental enquiry is going to look for someone who heard the noise, then it won't be able to see the forest for the trees and eventually end up barking the wrong tree defaming their own fame, if any.

On the larger question of where the elected members of state assembly or the parliament including the President and the Prime Minister derive the power vested on them from, it has been made amply clear that the power vested on them is derived from the people of India in the form of popular mandate and not from the parliament or the assembly. The power of the peoples representatives is, however, usually regulated and curtailed by the constitution with a view to avoiding the unwanted situation of vesting 'absolute power' on a single head of a state and, hence, the birth to a 'dictator' in the country.

If the legitimate power vested is abused to empower oneself with 'absolute power' that will be the last day of the rule of law in the country! In a similar manner, the Manipur University Act like the 'Constitution' defines the power structure of the 'Authority' of the University along with checks and balances to ensure the powers so vested is not misused or abused. The Vice Chancellor of a University is not an elected representative but an officer of the University selected by a duly constituted committee (and not elected).

The University Act clearly defines 'Vice Chancellor' as an officer of the University and hence he cannot claim himself as the sole 'Authority' of the University though he may be the Chairman or Head of some of the bodies (not all) defined as 'Authority' in the Act. There is no provision in the University Act for a single officer or a teacher of the University to act in an arbitrary manner without the approval of the appropriate 'Authority'.

Even if the VC or any other officer takes a decision due to its urgent nature, for example, the same will have to be reported at the earliest and approved by the appropriate 'Authority' lest it becomes infructuous. Any change in the type, nature or pattern in the teaching or examination related matters must be first discussed and approved by the academic council before its execution. What is enshrined in the Act is to be strictly followed both in spirit and letter.

There is nothing like 'mandatory' or 'not mandatory' in the Act because adhering to the University Act itself is mandatory. Any deviation from such practice would constitute violation of the University Act which is as serious a crime as violation of the constitution of the country. However powerful the President of India is, he cannot violate the constitution of India.

In the same manner, however powerful the VC may be, he is not above the University Act and he simply cannot violate the University Act. It is when the incumbent so indulges in such unbecoming manner, all the sections of the University including the public at large show him the door to save the University for the sake of the posterity. When one is bent upon holding onto the post despite the increasing odds, one is either impossibly insulated for a cause or one still has some unfinished agenda left. This will unnecessarily aid fuel to the ongoing agitation and, of course, stretch the impasse beyond the permissible Hook's limit. Touch wood and God forbids!

* Prof. Homendra Naorem wrote this article for
The writer is at Department of Chemistry, Manipur University and can be contacted at naorem(DOT)homendra(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on 18 July, 2018 .

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