Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Manipal shuts down after clash for 10 days

Gangtok, Sept. 8: The Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology has been shut down till further orders after a series of clashes between boarders and day scholars since Sunday culminated into a raging brick battle this morning, forcing police to burst tear-gas shells and conduct a lathi-charge on the campus.

Eight students were injured. All of them were released from Singtam District Hospital after first aid.

The police stormed a boys’ hostel this morning after a constable was injured by a brick missile hurled from one of them, sources said. The SMIT authorities said arrangements would be made for those wanting to leave the hostels. Those unwilling can stay back.

Throughout the day a 300-strong mob blocked the roads leading out of the campus, making it impossible to shift the boarders — 4,000 of them — from the two boys’ and one girls’ hostel, the police said. They said if needed the transfer of the boarders would be done with the help of the army. However, the army has not been called yet. Personnel of the Sikkim police, Sikkim Armed Police and the Indian Reserve Battalion have been deployed.

Some of the injured students at the Singtam district hospital.
A fourth year BTech student of mechanical engineering and a resident of Calcutta’s Lake Gardens, not wanting to be named, said: “We have been told that we will be escorted to Siliguri at 4.30am tomorrow by the army. I have been in touch with my parents and I will return to Calcutta either by flight or take a train. We had examinations till September 24, but now as the institute is shut for the next few days we will return only after Durga Puja.” The student said around 30 per cent of the boarders is from Bengal.
Bengal home secretary Ardhendu Sen said if the SMIT authorities want the Bengal government’s help to evacuate students from the state, it would be extended.

“However, we have not received any such proposal till now from them. If students from Bengal face any problems, we are there to help them,” Sen told The Telegraph in Calcutta.

Senior police officers and S.S. Pabla, the vice-chancellor of Sikkim Manipal University to which the SMIT is affiliated, were busy negotiating with the students to restore normality on the campus, 44km from here at Mazitar near the Bengal-Sikkim border town of Rangpo.

According to senior students of the SMIT, trouble first broke out on Sunday afternoon over a volleyball match being held as part Swasmitnam, an inter-departmental festival. The fight started with a squabble between a boarder and a day scholar over a foul committed in the match.

“It was a trivial issue, but soon snowballed. Three students, Ujjwal Kumar, Jitender and Gautam Jha, were beaten up by day scholars (on Sunday) who had brought in outsiders. The police instead of taking the three boys to the hospital for treatment, took them to Rangpo police station,” a fourth year student of the electrical and electronics department alleged.

He blamed hostel superintendent Kamal Thakur, and chief warden A.C. Mishra for not taking care of the injured students. “We are being targeted by outsiders and the authorities are blind to this,” the student said.

There was violence last night as well when a mob stormed the campus and another clash broke out.

The police had claimed the situation was under control, but there was another brick battle at 8am today.

A senior officer of the state armed police said last night a battalion of 115 policemen was posted on the campus and more forces were deployed after the morning’s violence.

A constable who was injured in the brick battle
“At present we are negotiating with the students and we do not want to use force on them. The institute will be shut till further orders. The trouble started with an altercation between a local boy (day scholar) and a boarder over a friendly volleyball match,” said N. Sridhar Rao, the deputy inspector-general (range) who is camping on the campus. The superintendent of police of East Sikkim, M.S. Tuli, is also there.

An officer said the local boys have been demanding that 20 of the boarders involved in the clash be identified and rusticated. “Eight students from both sides have been injured,” the officer said.
Sikkim human resource development secretary R. Telang said the situation was being monitored. “We will intervene only if the SMIT authorities fail to restore normality,” Telang said.
Vice-chancellor Pabla said the institute would be shut till further orders. “But it is likely to open within 10 days. An inquiry will be conducted against all involved in the incident.”