BJP Government’s armed siege of Manipur University has provoked widespread condemnation. BJP Manipur accuses that Manipur University Students’ Union (MUSU), Manipur University Teachers’ Association (MUTA) and Manipur University Staffs’ Association (MUSA) violated the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) – a tripartite agreement between MUSU, MUTA and MUSA, Govt of Manipur and MHRD. It also accuses students and faculty members of “brutal attack” on the pro-VC. Meanwhile, valley based student organisations have called for a 48 hours long General Strike demanding withdrawal of armed forces and release of arrested students and faculty members. Michael Samjetsabam examines the claims of BJP that the MoA has been violated by a certain ‘Confidential Agreement’ between stakeholders in the movement, while narrating events leading up to the General Strike. Find our earlier reports here: Turmoil in Manipur University: Mass Protests and Hindutva Designs, and Manipur University is Under Armed Siege.
Memorandum of Agreement and Violations
MUSU, MUTA and MUSA signed a Memorandum of Agreement consisting of seven points, with Government of Manipur and MHRD on 16th August. It agreed on an independent committee to enquire into the allegations against VC Pandey. It was agreed upon that he would be on leave during the course of enquiry. It was also agreed that MUSU, MUTA and MUSA would call off the shut down. With this MoA, the eighty-five day long shutdown ended and the university came back to life again. Immediately after the signing of the agreement, T Nandakumar and MK Chaudhuri formed the two-member independent committee. MUTA argues that since MK Chaudhuri is an advisor to Department of Education in BJP-ruled Assam, the committee is not independent. It is a violation of the agreement, according to MUTA. However, though this was a violation on the part of MHRD and Government of Manipur, MUSU, MUTA or MUSA did not push the demand of replacing him with another person. The second point of the agreement was that the enquiry will “preferably” be done within 15 days. The registrar gave leave to Pandey only till the 1st of September with this anticipation, though the enquiry did not start immediately.
Here is a copy of the Memorandum of Agreement signed between MUSU, MUTA and MUSA, and Government of Manipur and Ministry of Human Resources Development
The MoA however does not state that the enquiry must be finished in 15 days and the agreement in fact stresses that Pandey should be on leave during the course of enquiry. The leave should have been immediately extended keeping in mind that the enquiry did not start. In violation of the MoA, Pandey came back from leave on the 1st of September, and immediately banned MUTA and MUSA. He argued that he is not aware of any MoA and the enquiry has not started. With mounting pressure, the enquiry committee started probe on the 6th of September. Pandey refused to acknowledge the committee. He appointed Y. Yugindro as Provisional VC on the 10th of September. Y. Yugindro’s appointment needs ratification from the Executive Council of the university. But no such ratification has been done for his appointment. His appointment order only anticipates EC’s agreement with Pandey’s decision. Faced with widespread outrage in the state, the President of India, who is also the Visitor to Manipur University, suspended Pandey on the 17th of September blaming him squarely for the disruption of normalcy.
Thus from the beginning, the MHRD and BJP Government of Manipur have violated the MoA again and again. But BJP Manipur Pradesh argued that MUSU, MUTA and MUSA are the parties who violated the Agreement. Just before Pandey came back from leave, a document took rounds in social media. It was an agreement made between MUSA, MUTA and MUSU on the 28th of July before going into negotiations. In light of this, the BJP argued that since MUSA, MUTA and MUSU have made an agreement amongst themselves secretly, the MoA signed on the 16th of August cannot hold now.
Memorandum of Agreement and the Confidential document
The confidential agreement signed between MUSU, MUTA and MUSA focuses on the senior professors. The title of the agreement reads “Agreements with Senior Professors before accepting the post of Vice Chancellor in-Charge.” Senior professors who might be asked to take up the position of VC in-charge in coming days in Manipur University, along with MUSU, MUTA and MUSA, agreed hereby on the already public positions of the MU movement. The (confidential) Agreement ensures that the VC in-charge will not go against the will of the university community after calling off the shut down. The senior professors, according to this document, agreed that upon becoming the VC they will abide by the seventeen agreed points.
Here is a copy of the (Confidential) Internal Agreement signed between MUSU, MUTA and MUSA, and the Senior Professors.
First point of agreement:
To put the condition on the concerned Governments that Prof. AP Pandey should be removed, as demanded by the Manipur University Community and public.
Everyone knows that the general demand is the removal of Pandey. MUSU, MUTA and MUSA do not need to ‘secretly’ put a condition to both Central and State Governments that he should be removed. Another thing they confidentially agreed is
To put the condition on the concerned Governments that the enquiry committee should be an independent and secular committee, and therefore, members from UGC and the MHRD should NOT be member(s) of the committee.
There is nothing wrong in agreeing to this point. MUSU, MUTA and MUSA have no faith in the MHRD and the UGC. They want a committee independent from places where fascists forces have taken over. They want a secular committee. MUSU, MUTA and MUSA have publicly declared this particular demand multiple times before.
The professors also agreed on to put forward the condition that VC should be put on suspension or on forced leave while he is under enquiry. These demands are not very surprising ones. These are nothing more than reiteration of already known demands and positions. The agreement also mentions that the VC in-charge must ensure that nobody gets Y Security in the campus, since such arrangements strike terror in the campus. This is a University that already has a military camp inside the campus. These are all positions of MUTA, MUSA and MUSA already known to people.
The document, aiming to stop Pandey and his people from interfering in the enquiry, also reiterates the demand that those who are in support of Pandey must be transferred from their administrative positions. It mentions, in particular, transfers of three individuals from their administrative positions. For instance, it agrees the newly appointed VC in-charge must remove M Shyamkesho from the position of Registrar in-charge and “sent back to the concerned department only for teaching and research.” These are people around Pandey, according to MUSU, MUTA and MUSA, who could interfere with the investigations. Though this is an internal document, there is nothing ‘confidential’ in what is being called a ‘confidential document’. Moreover, it has nothing with the Government of Manipur. The eleventh point is
In the enquiry, if any staff or faculty member is found involved in the academic or financial irregularities committed by Prof. AP Pandey, action should be taken up against the staffs) or faculty member(s).
There are provisions designed to protect the evidence against Pandey, such as
movement of any file from the present VC’s, Registrar’s, Joint Registrar’s and Deputy Registrar’s should be allowed to be monitored by the representative(s) of MUTA, MUSU and MUSA for identification.
The office rooms of the new Vice Chancellor in-charge and Registrar in-charge should be arranged to new rooms other than the present rooms of the said above including computer rooms wherever applicable (during enquiry).
The tenth point that deals with violation of the MU Act says,
The dean committee which is not defined in the Manipur University Act, 2005 should be immediately dissolved.
Essentially, MUSA, MUTA and MUSU made an internal agreement before coming to negotiations with MHRD. BJP Chief Minister was present when the Memorandum of Agreement was signed between MUSA, MUTA and MUSU, MRHD and Government of Manipur. The BJP’s argument that the MoA signed after such an internal agreement had been made between forces in the movement, is therefore null and void, does not make sense because it would be a terrible move from the part of MUSU, MUTA and MUSA if they had no agreement amongst themselves, especially when they are calling off high pressure tactic such as shut down after the negotiations. BJP Manipur cannot argue that MUSU, MUTA and MUSA cannot have an internal agreement. They are running the movement. BJP Manipur is on the other side. It is running the Government. Furthermore, how the internal document of MUSU, MUTA and MUSA negates the MoA is not clear. It is in fact inconceivable how any negotiations could take place unless these three do not have an agreement amongst themselves before going in for dialogues with the MHRD and Government of Manipur.
BJP says that the Internal Agreement should have been public. Given that the Internal Agreement is merely a reiteration of already public demands and positions, much of the ‘revelations’ of the ‘confidential document’ failed to dent the movement. The revelation which did politically dent the movement to some extent was the sixth point, where MUSA, MUTA and MUSU agree
To transfer Mr. David K Zote (Joint Registrar) from the present position to Library/ Examination Section as Joint Registrar or warden of hostel or equivalent.
All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur pointed out that the movement thus agreed on transferring a tribal employee of the university instead of removing Pandey. They demand that the question of social justice must be central to the movement.
48 Hours General Strike
Pandey, on the 10th of September, appointed Y Yugindro as provisional-VC. The provisional VC entered in the University on the 20th of September along with large number of security forces. Students gheraoed him. The gherao was successful and under mounting pressure, the Pro-VC left the University (though he is now back into the campus). He then immediately went to the Chief Minister’s office where he named many individuals. Police filed an FIR based on his complaint. The complaint mentions that the students attacked him with sticks and stones, with the intent to kill him. The FIR mentions ‘attempt to murder’. However, Pro-VC Y Yugindro, himself, claimed on Impact TV that he was attacked with eggs. Two eggs hit his vehicle. He also reported in local news media that CM wanted to take action because “the situation has become embarrassing for him and the Center is scolding him.”
Armed action in Manipur University took place after the 20th September midnight. Police raided the hostels, fired rubber bullets, smoke bombs and tear gas shells. 6 faculty members and 89 students were arrested. The University is still under armed siege. There are a large number of armed forces station in the university. The state government had banned internet till the 25th of September. Furthermore, the stakeholders have already alleged that the armed crackdown in the university is being done to destroy evidence incriminating VC Pandey. Now a complaint has been filed against pro-VC for breaking the lock of the sealed office of VC Pandey. MUTA has announced that MHRD and Manipur Government has already violated the MoA in the beginning only. They will, therefore, not abide by it anymore. The university’s hopes for normalcy have been destroyed yet again.
Here is a Timeline of the events.
According to latest news, women students have started an indefinite hunger strike against the armed action. Joint Students’ Coordination Committee have called for total shutdown of the campus. No classes are taking place. Manipur University Students’ Union have boycotted the examinations. College and schools students protested against the armed action in Imphal on the 25th and 26th of September demanding release of the arrested people. Three students from Dhanamanjuri College have been arrested for protesting on the 26th of September. All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU), Students’ Union of Kangleipak (SUK), Kangleipak Students’ Association (KSA), Democratic Students’ Alliance of Manipur (DESAM), Manipur Students’ Federation (MSF) and Apunba Ireipak Maheiroi (AIMS) called a 48 hours long General Strike starting from the midnight of 26th September. Civil society organisations and women organisations have supported the general strike.
The crisis has spread. BJP CM has threatened against participation in the general strike. Nearly three hundred intellectuals and academics all over the world including Noam Chomsky and Gayatri Spivak have condemned the armed siege and demanded the release of arrested individuals. Police detained three more faculty members on the 26th. Five members of All Manipur Students’ Union are arrested in relation to the general strike on the same day. The crackdown continues. However, the general strike received mass support in the Imphal valley despite threats from the state government.
DM College of Arts Students demanded the release of arrested teachers and students of Manipur University. The student protestors were blocked by police when they started their march along Kangla Park. The confrontation occurred between the students and police personnel when they were pushed back to the college campus. Two student agitators were picked up by the police. Later, the students burnt an effigy of Chief Minister, N Biren.
Posted by Istv vision 2020 on Wednesday, 26 September 2018
It is clear that there was a promise of normalcy returning to the University after signing of the MoA. The promise was shattered when Pandey surfaced from the leave, passing orders banning MUTA and MUSA and appointing a pro-VC without due process. Armed siege of the University based on the pro-VC’s complaint – a complaint that is itself under question now because of his own claims – have further deteriorated the situation.
The author is a research scholar at IIT Bombay. Photos are courtesy epao.net.