As reinstated V-C returns, Raipur varsity students protest again

New Delhi Sep 26 Students of Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU) began a second wave of indefinite protest on Tuesday night, demanding that reinstated Vice-Chancellor Dr Sukh Pal Singh step down, accusing him of mismanagement, corruption, and failing to act against allegations of sexual harassment.

This comes after eight days of protest earlier in the month by the students, who demanded extension in curfew hours and library timings, fiscal transparency, review committees for institutional problems, and setting up of inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment.

Those protests began after the Chhattisgarh High Court on August 28 ruled against the extension granted to Dr Sukh Pal Singh as Vice-Chancellor for not following procedure, with Singh then leaving the university. “Sensing an opportunity”, students from HNLU began the protest, arguing that Singh had been at the root of these issues, and with his removal there was a chance that “issues would be heard”.

After eight days of protest, acting V-C R S Sharma and minister Mahesh Gagda met the students and gave assurances on institutional change and extending curfew and library timings. Snehal Ranjan Shukla, president of the Student Bar Association said, “After the protests, things were moving in the right direction.”

Last Thursday, however, the Supreme Court, on an appeal by Singh stayed the HC order and Singh resumed office on Tuesday. On September 22, the SBA had written to the Chancellor of the University acknowledging the steps taken, and said that “as students of law, they respect the order of the apex court”.

On Tuesday, as Singh returned to the university, students said he called a private meeting with the SBA, which the latter refused, and instead called a general student body meeting with 800 students.

The SBA told The Indian Express, “We put forth 10 major issues in front of the V-C and sought answers. Questions about why sexual harassment complaints were not addressed through formal procedure, absence of financial reports, academic rules and arbitrarily functioning administration, frozen moot funding and so on. He refused to admit any wrongdoing, and said there was little he could do. We even conveyed that if that was true, so much would not have been done since his removal in less than a month. Disappointed with his vague answers, the SBA put forth the signed no-confidence motion and sought his resignation. This was again refused by Dr Singh, who said that the students’ demands were frivolous, and left the auditorium. We have therefore started an indefinite protest against him.”

Singh could not be reached for comment.

Snehal Ranjan Shukla, president of SBA, said the students would sit on indefinite protest until Singh was removed from the university. Students said they would avoid going to class and hold all-night demonstrations, the first of which began on Tuesday night.