Panjab University resembles fortress ahead of student polls

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

CHANDIGARH - The sprawling 533 acre Panjab University (PU) campus here resembles a fortress with heavy security ahead of the Sep 3 students’ council elections that have a history of violence.

Personnel from both Chandigarh police and a private agency are deployed on the campus

to avoid any untoward incident during the Panjab University Campus Students’ Council (PUCSC) elections. Some contestants have a criminal background, a police official said.

According to police, there have been incidents in which firearms and sophisticated weapons have been used by rival student groups to settle personal scores.

“There are some students’ leaders with criminal cases registered against them. We have prepared a list of such students and other habitual offenders and keeping a close tab on their activities. We are working in close coordination with the intelligence agencies,” Jagbir Singh, deputy superintendent of police (central), Chandigarh, told IANS.

Many student leaders, with criminal cases registered against them, and habitual offenders are taking part in the campaigning. Many of these offenders are regularly attending court hearings, a police official said.

“Our officials are deployed at various sensitive locations of the campus. We are conducting regular checks of students’ identity cards. Vehicles coming to the university are also being checked,” Singh said.

According to police records, nearly 30 criminal cases related to violence involving at least 25 student leaders of the university have been registered since 2006 and over 90 people were arrested or detained for questioning.

The main groups active in the campus are the Panjab University Students’ Union (PUSU), the Students Organization of Panjab University (SOPU), the Indian National Students Organisation (INSO), the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

The PUSU and the SOPU are the dominant players whose candidates have occupied the president’s post more than others. The two traditional rivals have also been involved in a majority of violent incidents on the campus.

Chandigarh police have accused university authorities of acting in an irresponsible manner leading to violation of the guidelines of the Lyngdoh committee on student elections.

“The university is not strict towards the students’ political parties. They are clearly violating the Lyngdoh committee’s recommendation and nobody is bothered about it. We have submitted a report about this to our senior officials,” said Singh.

According to the Lyngdoh committee guidelines, student political parties cannot spend more than Rs.5,000 on campaigning, people who are not students of a university are barred from campaigning, parties are prohibited from using printed posters, open jeeps and loudspeakers and students with criminal background cannot contest elections.

In the wake of the violation of Lyngdoh committee’s norms in the Panjab University, a city-based NGO Global Human Right’s Council (GHRC) has raised the issue with the university authorities.

“Political parties are taking out huge rallies using luxurious cars with printed posters, they are spending nearly Rs.30,000 everyday on feasts and entertainment trips to woo voters,” Arvind Thakur, chairman of the GHRC, told IANS.

“Students’ elections have lost their true spirits and have become a platform to showcase money and muscle power,” he said.

University authorities said that they have made sufficient arrangements to prevent the violations of the guidelines on student elections.

Naval Kishore, university’s dean of students welfare, told IANS: “We have made the guidelines of the Lyngdoh committee clear to all political parties on the campus. Its violations are intolerable. We are keeping a close tab on the situation and if we come across any violation then strict action will be taken against the guilty.”

Over 10,000 students, over 70 percent of them women, study in around 65 research and teaching departments of the university.

The university is the alma mater of many senior bureaucrats and senior politicians including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Filed under: Education

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