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Struggles

Historical Studentsí Struggle Victorious led by SFI under Aggressive Repression (2002-2003)

Students Federation of India (SFI) organized a historical student movement led by their elected Students Central Association (SCA) as studentís unions called in Himachal Pradesh. Students of the Himachal Pradesh University (HPU), Shimla, were waging a grim struggle against the university administration for some time in the past. The struggle has the shape of mass movement and extended beyond the borders of the Shimla University campus to different colleges in the state, amid severe repression unleashed by the police and administration. The Chancellor of the University (the governor of the state) and the Chief Minister were yet to pay their attention to the struggle that has directly involving the future of the young generation of the state. It appears the state administrative machinery was deliberately ignoring the voice of the elected union led by SFI as the guiding force.

ISSUES OF STRUGGLE
In the beginning of 2002, various sections of people of Himachal Pradesh were engaged in struggles led by the Kisan Sabha, CITU, SFI and DYFI. These organisations have consistently organised the students and public at large in different parts of the state on issues affecting the people and against the anti-people policies pursued by the then BJP-led central and state governments.
In this situation comes the prolonged agitation has also started in the HPU campus. It was going on for about two months now and gets sustenance from the support coming not only from the mass of students but also from the people at large. The struggle strengthens, despite the gross excesses committed by the Shimla police and administration against students. The elected SCA held negotiations with the university administration in mid-October, 2002 on some issues concerning the students of the state like purchase of new buses for day scholars, more hostel facilities and better library facilities, etc. Some of the issues raised by the SCA concerned not only the students but also the common people of the Himachal Pradesh. One of the major issues was the way university administration was running the only general university in the state, with the patronage of the BJP government. The demands on those issues included that of transparency in appointments --- right from that of registrar, consultants and teachers down to Class III, Class IV and technical employees. At that time such people were being appointed in a most corrupt manner --- not only without formal interviews but, at places, even appointments were made without having vacancies for the posts. The Vice Chancellorís long absence from the campus and hiring out properties outside the state to benefit those were having affiliation to specific ideology of sangh parivar. The violation of its statutes and ordinances of the university etc were also included in the agitationís demands.


QUESTION PAPER SCAM
One more issue was of question papers. It involves gross irregularity, printing mistakes, poor quality printing, wrong patterns of questions, etc. Question papers of, say, first semester were found sealed in envelopes on which ďSecond SemesterĒ was printed. In fact, the job of printing the question papers was assigned to a press not in accordance with the stipulated norms, but because it belongs to the VCís close relatives. This press used to print small pamphlets till the university showered colossus favor upon it during the last one and a half years by placing with it large orders for printing question papers for various examinations. The expenditure on this head has arisen sharply to around Rs one crore; this is not only huge but also unjustified. The SCA and the SFI had been demanding a judicial or CBI probe into the affair.
These irregularities had caused a lot of inconvenience, agony and academic losses to thousands of undergraduate, postgraduate and M Phil students. The SFI time and again raised this issue that has been agitating the students. It organised a convention in June to focus the problems the students are facing, along with the universityís loss of prestige. But no action was taken.


ABVPíS SHAME AGITATION
During the 2001-02 session, it was the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), an RSS outfit, that controlled the SCA and Students Council. Even though various irregularities were taking place with impunity, the ABVP-led SCA did not raise these issues and kept pursuing the agenda other than those for which it was elected. However, when the ABVP got a drubbing in the previous SCA elections by a record margin, it planned to raise these issues in view of their potential to capture the studentsí imagination. It also planned to harass the SFI-led SCA as, by October 2002, within two months in office, the SFI-led SCA had forced the university officials to concede many demands concerning the students and had achieved mass acceptability.
The ABVP had another agenda too --- to harass the Vice Chancellor and promote the interest of the pro-vice chancellor who is their mentor on the campus. The most important part of their hidden agenda was to pressurise the VC in order to secure some jobs for its activists in teaching faculty and in strategic positions like editor, public relations officer, etc, so as to had total control of the university. Earlier, for the purpose, the ABVP had tried to bring pressure from the ministers but that had failed to click, as the VC enjoyed direct patronage from the governor, i.e. the HPU chancellor.
The ABVP staged dharnas on many days. But it soon got exposed. For, apart from sections of university community, even one vernacular daily committed to promote the BJP interests strangely published on its front page about the ABVPís job securing agenda. Exposed by the SCA- and SFI-led agitations and the media alike, the ABVP tried its best to create a law and order problem on the campus.


DECEMBER 26 INCIDENT
When the ABVP drama was going on, the SCA was struggling to get its demands conceded. It organised rallies, demonstrations, and even forced the universityís top brass to keep out of the campus for many days. As usual, the VC was absent from his office for a considerable period on unjustified tours; it was regular practice for him to evade his responsibility to the university community. During the period when the student unrest was at its peak, he was away from November 13 to 30, 2002 and again from December, 12 to 24, 2002. During one of the rallies organized by SCA, ABVPís former president threatens to kill the then SCA president as in that agitation was against the illegal admissions of 3 ABVPís leaders in education department. On 24th of December 2002 with RSS goons with sharp edge weapons talwar, khukries and rods; he attacked the SCA president in his hostel room in the mid night. They have bolted all the doors of the rooms of SFI supporters and that 4th floor of Dr. Y S Parmar Hostel from outside where they had targeted the presidentís room. They have broken the door of the room with iron rods and attacked the president but mean while one of the student at 5th floor who was studying alerted the students. Immediately they unlocked the doors and chased the goons, most of them escaped in the night. But during assault students have beaten up the ABVPís former campus president, who was the main culprit behind this attack. He was close to Mr. Prem Kumar Dhumal, CM of the ruling BJP government in the state. As all the efforts failed, BJP led government along with university administration, state police and ABVP scripted a conspiracy to repress the student struggle.
After one week absence from the campus, the VC came to his office on December 26, 2003 and invited the SCA for talks on the prevailing issues. At about 10.30 a.m. however, when nearly 30 SCA members went to the main gate of the VCís office, they found a heavy police force deployed there, led by Mr. Chander Shekhar, Additional superintendent of police, Shimla, who is notorious for his anti-student attitude. When the SCA members reached the gate, this officer allowed only 6 students to enter the gate, saying that they were enough to talk to the authorities. These included SCA President Kuldeep Bhardwaj, Vice President Trilok Bhaluni, Secretary Sudhir Dutta, SFI state President Vijender Mehra, popular SFI activist Harish and SFI state Secretary Manoj Chandel.
As soon as these student leaders entered the office complex, the main gate was locked. Then began the game the university and police authorities had planned. The police subjected all those outside the main gate for an unprovoked and brutal lathicharge, seriously injured several. They arrested many of them and kept beating them even after them into custody.
Another drama unfolded on the other side of the wall. Led by the same officer, the police entered the VCís office complex via another gate. Before the 6 student leaders could reach the second gate to enter the VC office, the ASP asked a junior police officer, Inspector Sharma, to break a windowpane from inside and he ordered the policemen to brutally beat-up the locked leaders. The police inflicted on the 6 leaders several blows with lathis in the constricted passage and the VC office corridors. They cornered the six student leaders and severely beaten-up till they collapse. The nightmare did not end there, more the police neither gave them any medical aid for days nor were they medically examined, even after a lot of pleading in police station. They were finally booked under baseless charges.
As a result of the police assault, elected President, Kuldeep Bhardwaj, got a fracture in his leg, Vijender Mehra and Manoj Chandel got fractures in arms. Sudhir Dutta, Trilok Bhaluni and Harish got injuries on their backs and legs. The arrested students were released on bail on January 2, but their belongings were not returned. The police also refused to give them back the money they were carrying at the time of arrest on the pretext that it was spent on their medical treatment. The injured students, though, did not get any treatment.
On the other part of the shameful episode, ABVP men sitting on a dharna were cordoned safely by the police kept shouting: ďPolice administration go ahead, we are with you!Ē No more proof was required to show the dubious link between ABVP, University administration and police under the guidance of BJP led state government.


REPRESSION MULTIPLIES
Severe repression followed this gross human rights violation and suppression of the right to protest. The aggressive police personnel stopped many students not involved in this agitation from entering the examination hall. Giving a glimpse of its fascist modus operandi, the university summarily rusticated as many as 23 students, without following procedures like personal hearing. The list includes all the elected SCA office-bearers and top leaders of SFI.
University had rusticated some of the students those are not even present in the campus and also not members of the SCA of SFI. List to rusticate 23 innocent students have been finalized by ABVP leaders and University Security Officer, who is the agent of the BJP and illegally appointed in the University. They gave the name of those students to whom they have personal enmity.
The district authorities and university administration conspired to clamp section 144 CrPC on the campus to weaken the agitation. However, to their credit, girl students violated the section 144 many times. Also, they forced the authorities to cancel the order to vacate hostels during exams. SFI activists now took their agitation to the city. The police and district administration then clamped on the whole city a prohibitory order under section 144 CrPC. Yet, the SFI went on challenging the order by its militant actions, now joined also by DYFI, CITU and Kisan Sabha cadres.


LATHICHARGE AGAIN
As students violated section 144 many time, the administration became helpless and yielded to the determined agitating students. However, acting on an order from their masters, the police again went berserk and attacked many students with lathis on January 3, 2003 when a large contingent was taking out a procession to protest the attacks on their democratic rights. Policemen manhandled girls and taken them in the custody. They further misbehaved with the girls in the police station. They also attacked press photographers and journalists who were trying to capture in their cameras the scenes of policemen misbehaving the girl students. At the time there were no policewomen at the site. Thirty-six students including 8 girls were taken into custody.
Addressing the media on January 5, 2003 SFI and SCA leaders jointly declared that the struggle would continue even though the university had closed for winter vacation on January 1, 2003. The SCA and SFI have demanded a probe into the malfunctioning of university administration and the VCís omission and commission by a sitting High Court judge. The judicial inquiry must also cover the police excesses/repressions on students as well as the misbehavior with girl students and media persons. The leaders also urged the people of Himachal Pradesh to extend support to their ongoing agitation.


SFIíS CAMPAIGN AGINST CORRUPTION IN STATE ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS
In January and February, 2003, the University Campus remains closed due to winter vacations. Under the banner of SCA, SFI continues to expose the nexus of university administration and BJP led state government. Meanwhile financial irregularities in university and backdoor appointments of RSS & BJP cadre in HP University and through Subordinate Service Selection Board Hamirpur became the focal points in the forthcoming State Assembly elections to be held in February 27, 2003. It is the SFI that had strived hard to expose the corruption in the BJP regime led by then CM Prem Kumar Dhumal. Even Congress had en-cashed the studentís mass movement led by SFI against corruption and illegal appointments in the state assembly elections. Congress leaders even met the parents of some rusticated students and promise them to safeguard the future of their wards in return of support in the elections. But students didnít give up as they know the real face of both BJP and Congress in HP from past experiences.
SFI had campaigned throughout the election season to oust the most corrupt BJP government from the HP in the election, who was responsible for the financial irregularities and backdoor entries of the people, belong to their ideology in the state by playing with the future of meritorious candidates. Due to regular campaign of the students of Himachal Pradesh BJP lost the assembly elections and Congress get benefited of it in the absence of strong peopleís democratic alternative in the state.
After assembly elections, Congress came to power in the state and. As much expected they start enjoying the powers of newly elected government and forgot the promises they had been made to the students and people of the state to act against the irregularities, revocation of 23 rusticated students of HPU and corruption in the state at large. SFI knows that BJP and Congress both are the same faces of the coin. Itís only the SFI who pledged to carry forward the struggle to have a free and fare investigation of the irregularities and revocation of the rustication of the 23 students, who are falsely implicated by university administration under the direction of the then BJP led government.


SECOND & DECISIVE PHASE OF STRUGGLE
After the winter vacations, University was on full swing in March, 2003 and in between congress led government also came into power in 2003 assembly elections. As much expected congress forgotten the promise they had made in assembly elections to act against the financial irregularities, illegal appointments and rustication of the students in the university. SCA office bearers met the Governor who is also Chancellor of the University to appraise the irregularities, illegal rustication of the students in the campus and demanded to withdraw the cases falsely registered against the students. In the meeting Governor responded in diplomatic manner, as he acted like agent of outgoing BJP government and remained mock during the turmoil in the university. He was indirectly involved in the whole episode of question paper scam.
Rusticated students also met the state Chief Minister of newly formed congress government in March, 2003 to remind him to his electoral promise his party had made. SFI led Student Union made all democratic efforts to nail the corrupt University Vice Chancellor and for justice to the rusticated students. After sensing the ignorance of new state government to studentís demand, University Administration come too low to crush the agitation of the students and sent letters to companies to discontinue the job training of some of the rusticated students including SCA president who were about to complete their training of final semesters of their courses.


STRUGGLE GOES ON ITS EXTREME

At last agitation went to the extreme form and SFI decides to go on indefinite fast. Our ideology didnít allow us to take such drastic step but we none of the other option but take this as last weapon. SCA takes approval from the students in general meeting in which they uproars the slogan of Study & Struggle and subsequently made their mood to hammer the nexus of University & State Government more hardly.
On April 2, 2003 SCA President Kuldeep Bhardwaj and SFI Campus President Bhupinder Singh (Bhuppi) sat on indefinite hunger strike. All the students of university come to join the agitation by leaving ideological differences aside. ABVP have been isolated in the university and some of their committee members resigns from their campus committee which exposed the real face of the whole nexus. Students boycotted the classes by itself in support of the strike. Whole Campus has been converted into police cantonment and tried to pick up the leaders sitting on the fast, forcefully at the mid night. This new spread like a fire in the hostel and all students of the hostel rushed to venue and chased the police. The health of the leaders sitting on the fast was getting deteriorated day by day. The doctors were sent to check their health and to give the medical aid, but they refuse to accept the medical assistance. On third day of the indefinite hunger strike thousands of students gathered in the campus to march to Vice Chancellorís office and to give the message to administration as well as state government that they will have not let the sacrifice the life of the fasting leaders at the cost of corruption in the university. Police and University tried their hard to crush the agitation but failed.
At last on April 5, 2003, Government & University administration gave up to historical studentís movement led by SFI under the banner of SCA, which had been become the peopleís voice in HP. Most of the demands had been accepted including constitution of proper enquiry in the question paper scam, revocation of 23 rusticated students and has called the SCA for further negotiation of issues raised during the agitation by promising to pay the heed to the long pending demands.

 

HISTORICAL STRUGGLE COME VICTORIOUS

The order of December 26, 2002 the black day of HPU history on April 5, 2003 had been revised and 23 brave students who face mental agony due to rustication & falsely cases registered against them, has revoked without any conditions. SCA withdrew the indefinite fast after holding talks with the university authorities and Mr R.D. Panwar, Registrar of HPU broke the fast by giving juice to fasting leaders.
The students whose expulsions have been revoked were Kuldeep Bhardwaj- SCA President, Trilok Bhaluni- SCA Vice President, Sudhir Dutta- SCA General Secy., Vishwa Bhushan- SCA Joint Secy., Vijender Mehra ĖSFI State President, Neeraj Basu- SFI Campus Secy., Gaurav Sood, Mast Ram, Hem Singh, Onkar Nath, Kuldeep Chambyal, Ved Parkash, Sher Chand, Balbir Prashar, Ranjeet Chauhan, Harish Anand, Balraj Bhaluni ĖResearch Scholler, Shakti Singh, Sanjeev, Dalip Mehta, Brij Lal, Kuldeep Kumar and Jai Lal. SCA & SFI members hold negotiations with the Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Studies on April 10.
The probe has been ordered when a new Governor, who is also the Chancellor of the university, is set to take over. On May 4, 2003 the Vigilance Department had begun the inquiry into question paper scam, illegal appointments and other financial irregularities in Himachal Pradesh University. A team of the department visited the university and asked for records pertaining to the alleged irregularities in appointments, printing of question papers, various purchases and hiring of accommodation. The Congress had made the question paper scam and illegal recruitment the major election issues and promised to hold an inquiry. Government have not acted as they promised but yielded to the pressure of indefinite hunger strike in the university under the leadership of SFI.
The Vigilance Department has probed the question paper printing scam from the corruption angle. The cost of printing of a question paper has reportedly increased threefold to Rs 77 lakh over the past two years. SFI alleged that the question papers published at exorbitantly high costs and were full of errors. The hiring of guesthouses without requirement outside the state and purchase of computers and books has also been investigated. The department had also been asked to look into 14 cases of appointments, ranging from laboratory technicians to lecturers. Police officials also visited various departments to gather information about various irregularities.
Later on July 20, 2003 the special investigation team of the Vigilance Department arrested Dr S.D. Sharma, former Vice-Chancellor of the Himachal Pradesh University from his residence at Karnal in Haryana and interrogated him for question paper scam and irregularities in the university during his tenor. When students who were rusticated to crush the agitation have completed their final year of the degrees and the Corrupt VC has been put behind the bars for his criminal act.
 

 

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