Coming of Manipur University in 1980
A defining moment in the history of higher education in Manipur

Dr AK Chishti *

   Manipur University in August 2014
Manipur University in August 2014 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

On June 5 1980, Manipur University came into existence under Manipur University Act 8 of 1980. The State University then became a Central University w.e.f. Oct 13th of 2005. For the entire populace of Manipur, the academics and educated youths in particular, the coming of a full-fledged University of their own was indeed a long felt desire and dream fulfilled at long last.

On this 42nd birth anniversary of the coming of Manipur University, it will be worthwhile to recall the episode as a glorious chapter in the annals of growth and development of institutions of Higher Education in the state since 1946 with the establishment of DM College. However, true tale of coming of the University in 1980 remained so far as an enigma or an untold story (motivated or not) for generations keeping the general people, the academics and students of higher classes who have the inherent right to be informed, in the dark.

The revelation today will therefore, give a new rhythm to the educational reforms in Manipur which has been in an unhappy state of management which used to breed multiplication of several ills agonising the young minds. The academics and young people since long aspired for a full-fledged University of International standard and felt as the need of the hour to create the necessary environment for bringing about a sweeping change effecting a living and functional education from bottom level to top level.

It is to be figured out by the authority of higher education. The policy followed so far even after establishing of State University and now a Central University can't be said to have come near the goal or target. Old concepts of education are still in the mind of men in the helm of affairs.

To ignite the passion of the aspirants today it has become an unavoidable obligation on the part of the pioneers who ran from pillar to post for the establishment of Manipur University in 1980 that saved State students from losing their valuable careers in 1980 and after. The episode should not be/cannot be forgotten as it will surely inspire the brave youth of all generations in their struggle for the promotion of good public causes. Pioneers, a few in numbers had already set the example in 1980 that also very peacefully without any sort of conflict and loss of time.

It will be hard to believe but it remains true and vivid that a group of DM College teacher and five senior students, in response to the obvious need of the hour exercised their inherent rights and duties to take up the cause & set the example in the episode when a decision must be taken. All welcomed and appreciated the role played by the teacher and the students of DM College at such a critical juncture. It was really a defining moment in the history of higher education of Manipur.

Never before in the history of North Eastern States of India such a situation existed as in 1970s, affecting the lives of the people and the functioning of the Government mainly in Assam. In the face of the situation, Assam students' launching of a massive strike against the occupation of their land by war refugees from across the border, told upon the normal functioning of educational institutions of the State for a longer period as a result all the students in and around Assam including college students of Manipur had to face and bear the brunt in an unprecedented situation arising out of indefinite postponement of University examinations of Guwahati University to that colleges of Manipur were also affiliated.

It was an irony of fate for the Manipur students as the situation was never of their own making and creation and in no way comparable with that of Assam. The real and only situation that was visible clearly confronting them was the absence of a State University that could conduct or manage their affairs as other Universities do normally.

The idea of having a State University in 1980 was not the idea of the Government authority at that time. The fact is that soon after taking stock of the situation when there was no solution in sight the said group of DM teachers and senior students decided to take the initiative as in duty bound. It was extremely important because many other things depended on it. As all will agree that an early diagnosis is crucial for a successful treatment and cure. It was akin to the then prevailing situation. It was the real defining situation for Manipur.

Some of the pioneers who were with the teacherss are here today in this function when some are not. They are now retired from their services in the State and outside. Their undying spirit is in their original places always that can be seen in their giving ready response to the organisation of this function today.

The group will be termed as G6 consisting of no. 1. Dr AK Chishti, Retd. Principal DM College (Commerce) 2. L Nilakamal Singh, Retd. Assistant Director, IB (Intelligence Bureau) Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India, New Delhi 3. L Upendro Sharma, Retd. Director JN Dance Academy, Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India, New Delhi 4. Ksh Shantakumar Singh, Retd. Jt. Director, Department of Commerce and Industries, Government of Manipur 5. Shri. O Imocha Singh, Uripok 6. Shri H. Prameshwar Singh, Khurai.

Rendezvous with Education Minister and Men in the helm of affairs

The idea of having a University was already there in the minds of men who hobnobbed with the authority of JNU Delhi and opened the JNU Centre of Post Graduate studies at Imphal instead of opening a State University at that time. In that direction it may be recalled that the present teacher in the lead put forward his suggestions via the local daily "The Prajatantra" of 23rd May of 1972 under the caption "University Kadaida"; two sites namely, Luwangsangbam foot hill and the Leimaching foot hill were suggested for giving active consideration of either of the two as the most suitable site for the location of the proposed University.

This time in 1980 the teacher was not alone; some senior students joined him and formed the G6. The decision of G6 though taken by a microscopic body was momentous. No cause was greater to the G6 than the establishment of a University at that time. The Group first of all took the occasion of meeting the Honourable Minister of Education Mr Rishang Keishing on 13th March, 1980 and told him that there was a dire need to review the academic problem faced by state students.

Oja Rishang was kind enough as to meet the group with all the seriousness and readiness to discuss the matter concerning the fates of BSc/BA and PU Science/Arts/Commerce candidates in the event of University's keeping silence over that issue spelling doom for State students aspiring to join medical/engineering professions, etc. For them the examination was crucial that no postponement could be made or accepted since dates for admission into the courses were determined by concerned authorities of India. 'What could I do?' was the counter question from him'.

The cutting rejoinder was that, who was the right authority to take the cause of State students, if he was not ? He was to answer to the people not to the G6. The suggestion of the group was that their Education Minister should without further loss of time contact the Guwahati University Authority for making a special arrangement for the State college students. The inevitable should follow. No VC on earth could give a positive response to that as the situation was against such a favour and an action the team pointed out to him.

There was no option for the State Government also but to initiate the process of establishing the long waited University of its own with no qualms or feeling of doubt or worry that, what the Government might not be right. Oja Rishang agreed with the team with some reservations of course. The team tried its best to clear the deck; came up with an offer to assist him if necessary in the meeting with the VC Guwahati University and the Prime Minister of India. The group was 100% sure of the favour to come from both authorities as to arrive at a solution was crucial.

There was no politics involved in that approach. Oja Rishang was more than convinced and he expressed his readiness to talk to the VC at his behest and asked the team to come to him in the very evening of the day for further deliberation on the outcome. The group expressed their gratefulness to the Education Minister Oja Rishang and wished him all the success.

The group of G6 also met with the Principal, DM College of Science in his office chamber and appraised of the situation and development. It was a different picture to convey, quite in contrast to that of Oja Rishang. He was not at all smart in expressing his true reaction; always pessimistic. To the suggestion that in the event of GU's denial to the approach for making a special arrangement, the State Government should take up the case suo motu and establish duly a full-fledged University of Manipur to save the valuable careers of the children that will be in the fitness of things. To that Shri NC Sen sharply reacted "Impossible", "Chishti you are quite sentimental and not practical."

The group also met Shr E. Yaima Singh in his office chamber and from there, they contacted the Education Minister's office. It was however called a day instead asked them to come next morning. The narratives made above are based on the notings made in a special diary as maintained by Shri L Nilkamal Singh in-charge of the job. The same will be true for all the notings to follow.

On 28th March, 1980 the G6 and the Principal of DMC of Science Shri NC Sen visited the Education Minister's Bungalow to meet the Education Minister. The Principal however left the premise as Student Union Secretaries did not come as planned. The G6 also returned without meeting the Education Minister who was busy in an emergency meeting. As the rallying point was already there for the G6 to advance their approach, Oja Rishang always welcomed them though he was quite busy and engaged with many visitors.

On one occasion he was found busy with the party leader Shri RK Joychandra Singh and Shri E Yaima Singh, Director of Education (U). The two also joined the discussion with Oja Rishang and supported the cause. He did not lose time, asked the G6 teacher leader to meet his PA for setting a programme of meeting of all concerned officials including the Commissioner Education DE (U), Director JNU Centre of PG studies, Chairman Higher Secondary Board, etc. for deliberation and decision on the agenda item the G6 urged as a rallying point.

Shri H Ranabir Singh the then Director of JNU Centre of PG studies was entrusted with the job of drafting the Manipur University Bill 1980 for the placement in the Manipur Legislative Assembly Session. Oja Rishang also requested the teacher to assist H Ranabir Singh as and when necessary. In reality however it was otherwise. As it so happened, the teacher while on a visit to the new secretariat came across a copy of the draft Manipur University 1980 lying on the table of the SO, Secretariat Education Department. It was really by chance to get such an opportunity of going through the draft.

Commissioner (Education), Shri Sangura was pleased to offer a copy of the draft which was then discussed in an emergency gathering of G6 in the DM College canteen. Prima facie, there were full of unwanted and irrelevant references in the draft that required to be deleted or removed before the introduction in the August house. The team had to rush to the residence of the Director JN centre of PG studies in that evening of 7th April, 1980.

A lengthy arguments for and against the inclusion of the references in question took place. The group of G6 insisted upon him again and again in favour of removing the references from the body of the draft to make the establishment of MU as an independent policy decision of the state government. The deliberation was quite interesting and illuminating in spite of the face off before coming around the understanding in favour as requested.

However, as to the request made by the team to him to initiate the move at his behest at the earliest and save the situation, he denied on the ground that there was no sufficient time left. Sensing the difficulties ahead the group ultimately decided to submit a representation in that regard to the honourable CM next morning. The representation was drafted in the bordering night with a prayer to do the needful deemed proper for removing the references in question from the MU 1980.

Members of the G6 gathered at the security officer's office inside the CM compound in the morning hours for seeing the honourable CM. To the surprise of the members Shri H Ranabir Singh all of a sudden appeared there and went through the representation copy. Having satisfied with the representation and development brought about, he expressed his intention to submit the representation by himself to the Honourable CM in favour of the removal of unwanted references.

The team agreed in the situation. After some 40 - 45 minutes Shri H. Ranabir Singh came out with satisfaction and conveyed to the team that his mission was successful that honourable CM of Manipur accepted the prayer of the G6 readily. They thanked him again and again for the outcome. On 8th April, 1980 the August Assembly passed the Bill and it became the MU Act 8 of 1980.

It now came as a blessing to the people of the Manipur the erstwhile kingdom in the East. It was really the result of a concerted and historic movement that led to the establishment of MU for the future to remember with the sigh of relief.

Coming of MU in 1980 was really a defining moment in the history of higher education in Manipur. The G6 members have been sharing the historical moments among themselves and the lasting impact on their minds for the past four decades. The defining moment when appreciated by the young generations can be of help in building trust, camaraderie, alignment and sense of unity. It will aid in serving as a tool to empower themseves profitably.

On 11th April, 1980 the G6 poured out their feeling of excitement and joy to Oja Rishang on the historic decision taken by the Manipur Legislative Assembly Session on 8th April, 1980. He was so nice that with a broad smile he in return gave the credit to G6 who he acknowledged were responsible for passing of the Bill. Now that the University has come so the teacher in the lead should do his best to convince students to focus their attention on the studies and not indulge in organising movement etc.

The teacher responded to his advice and pleaded that always it would be very helpful if Oja himself as their guardian see them and advise. They can't but obey his valuable advice. The teacher assured him of extending his full cooperation. The G6 also further requested that the University be properly setup as the situation demanded for a quick action. Oja Rishang narrated an account of his recent meeting with the Prime Minister and the Education Minister.

The Govt. did its best to ameliorate the situation to somehow pass the Bill that even the draft Bill was not in proper form; only the cover was printed while the Bill body was cyclo-styled as it was considered an emergency case. Necessary amendments of the Act will also be made, degree exams will also be timely conducted. Appointment matters were there; due care should be taken, "Oja ' the teacher drew his attention. A committee would be constituted to take care of these things he assured. This was a part of a true tale. The event will always remain green in the minds of G6 members

Formation of Manipur University Welfare Organisation ( MUWO)
G6 to MUWO

On 13th July 1980, the forum was organised in a public meeting of mainly the academicians and students of University and colleges with (L) Shri S Gourahari Singh, Retd. Secy. Edn. to the Govt. of Manipur in the Chair in the best interest of the infant university in particular and education in general. In his presidential speech Shri Gourahari Singh appreciated the convenor and his associates for taking the initiative for such a great cause having a far reaching impact on the present society and generations.

He appealed to all to make the organisation a strong and living body. Notable speakers like Sarvashri N Nabakishore Singh, M Radheshyam Singh, J Roy, SP Jain, L Damudor Singh, Y Mohendro Singh, etc. also welcomed the formation of MUWO with a clear purpose.

The consensus of all was that such a body would serve in abiding a useful purpose and would be conducive to the best interest of the speedy progress, efficient working and smooth functioning of the university. It was in short to bring the university in its full play with all the requisites and paraphernalia.

Some of the important matters/issues put up by the MUWO in 1980 were appointment of a competent Vice Chancellor, a Registrar, construction of administrative Block of the University, constitution of Senate, Syndicate and Academic Council, holding of exams and recognition of Manipur University by other Universities.

* Dr AK Chishti wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 27 2022 .

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