On August 2, 2018, the Manipur University Vice-Chancellor, A.P. Pandey was asked to go on leave, while an inquiry was being conducted in the accusations of negligence and financial irregularities against him. On speaking to the media, he told them that he had resumed his duties on September 1, after completing his 30 days leave. He started a camp office at his official quarter, and he has been complying with his duties as a VC even as his office is locked.
From May 30, 2018, students and teachers at the university have been protesting in large numbers, demanding the resignation of the Vice-Chancellor, citing his ineligibility for the position. The list of allegations includes: frequent absence from the campus and its duties, non-filing of vacant posts in the college and the like.
A memorandum was signed by the protestors with the state government and the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development on August 16. Indian Express reported that the VC would be on leave until the investigation into the matter was completed and proper action was taken, for the same. As per the agreement, Pandey was to be on leave, “during the period of enquiry and until follow-up action taken on the enquiry report by the competent authority”.
As a result of the widespread protests, the university was on an 85- day shutdown during the protests, while the teachers and staff associations supported the Students’ Union. The university finally went on to reopen on August 23rd.
On August 31st, Pandey passed a notice declaring that he had recommenced his duties at the university. According to Pandey, the charges against him are all false, and the students and teachers are not happy with him because he has tightened the administration. He spoke to The Hindu and said, “I returned to Imphal and took charge after my leave was over on August 31. I have informed the MHRD, the governor and the chief secretary of Manipur, besides the registrar of the university about my rejoining”.
On September 1st, another notice was issued saying that the Manipur University Act, 2005, “does not provide a provision for existence of employees’ bodies, like the teachers’ and students’ associations.” The office order said that both organisations were “directly involved in subversive activities leading to create turmoil in the university”.
He went on to tell the Indian Express, “I have banned the MUTA and MUSA because they were instigating students to protest and ruin the atmosphere of the university. They were pushing students towards destruction and destroying the future of so many students.”
On Sunday, September 2, the associations said that they would restart their protests if Pandey is allowed to resume his office. Following an emergency meeting, the teachers’ association said that he would not be“allowed to enter” campus until the investigation against him is complete, and action has been taken. The teachers also said that Pandey’s “virtual order” (banning the associations) should be “seen as the prime example of how undemocratic and authoritarian he is”.
N.N Singh, the Teachers’ association spokesperson, told Indian Express, “If by the evening of September 4, there is no response to our demand, we will resume our strike.”
Various students and judicial dignitaries took to social media condemning the arbitrariness of A.P. Pandey and asking for proper attention and redressal to the problem Manipur University is facing.
The All India Mahila Congress tweeted, “Shameful attempt to smother student voice. College Vice-Chancellor taking the punishment route for dissent to an entire new level. VC who has lost confidence of students & faculty alike must not be allowed to resume.”
“Without casting any aspersions on the Vice Chancellor of Manipur University, Prof. A.P. Pandey, I think it would be best if he is replaced by someone else; otherwise it may be impossible to run the university. How can the university run in this hostile atmosphere?”, wrote Markandey Katju, who is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India.
Kongbrailatpam Rajeshwar Sharma, took to Twitter to talk about the lax attitude of the government regarding Manipur University. “Indian print and electronic media have no space and time to highlight the impasse at Manipur University perhaps because Manipur is thought to be less important than alcohol in Punjab. This kind of attitude can never bring the people of Manipur into mainstream India”, he said.
The support that the teachers are giving to the students has been appreciated. A student from HNLU tweeted, “Only if HNLU faculties could stand in solidarity with the students. Manipur University is a live example.”