Students strike cripples varsity in Meghalaya

November 1st, 2010 - 7:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil Shillong, Nov 1 (IANS) Normal functioning of Meghalaya’s North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) was disrupted Monday, the first day of the indefinite strike called by students to pressurise the central government to remove A.N. Rai as vice-chancellor and appoint a local academician instead.

“We will continue with the strike till our demands are met,” Meghalaya Tribal Students Coordination Committee (MTSCC) chairman Kynpham Kharlyngdoh said.

The agitating students, under the banner of NEHU Students Union (NEHUSU) and MTSCC have been protesting since a month for the appointment of a local academician to head the varsity, one of the country’s premier central universities, set up in 1973.

Rai, a former vice chancellor of Mizoram University, was appointed as the vice chancellor of NEHU after Pramod Tandon completed his tenure Sep 12 this year.

Late Barrister Pakem has been the university’s only local vice-chancellor till now.

Earlier, the student organisations rejected the vice-chancellor’s offer for dialogue.

A three-member team of the union human resource development (HRD) ministry, led by HRD ministry secretary Vibha Puri Das, Oct 20 visited Shillong to assess the situation. The team later submitted its report to HRD Minister Kapil Sibal.

“All our findings and the views expressed by the governor, the state government and stakeholders of the NEHU have been compiled in our report,” Sunil Kumar, additional secretary (higher education), who was part of the team, told IANS on phone from New Delhi.

The vice-chancellor’s office, classrooms and laboratories remained locked as the agitating students were picketing in front of the varsity gates, and prevented anyone from entering the campus.

“Demonstration is a democratic right of any person or group in this country but to prevent people forcibly from attending their duties is against the law. Majority of the students have been forced to miss classes,” Rai told IANS.

“They have expressed their resentment to the central team and could have waited for the report before resorting to agitation which is self-afflicting their academic career,” he added.

Rai, who took charge on Oct 11 as NEHU vice-chancellor amidst protests from the students, said the students were influenced by ’some elements’ who wanted his ouster.

“I have been appointed by the President, on the recommendation of the search committee. I have not sought or contested for the appointment, but they selected me for it. Therefore, I am still honouring this appointment,” Rai said.

The NEHU vice chancellor also expressed his disappointment with the Meghalaya government for not providing security inside the campus.

Earlier, the Meghalaya government asked the HRD ministry team to appoint a local academician as the NEHU vice-chancellor.

“David Syiemlieh (a tribal Khasi and an eminent historian) is the best person to lead the university. He is an impeccable academician with requisite qualifications and has enough experience in administration of the university,” Deputy Chief Minister B.M. Lanong said.

Syiemlieh, a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research, is currently the controller of examinations in the university.

The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) and Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP), two powerful organisations in Meghalaya, also urged President Pratibha Patil to revoke Rai’s appointment.

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