– A decades-old trend of the Indian state in Manipur
As stated by MUSU and MUTA, it was a “midnight rape of the sanctity of Manipur University” on 20th September 2018. The varsity was raided in the middle of the night by armed police forces and CRPF. The raid continued till the afternoon of September 21st . The students of every boys’ hostel were harassed, mock bombs, tear gas shell were used, internet services were cut down, and 89 students along with 6 faculty members were arrested. All these actions were taken on the basis of a single FIR lodged by a single person, Professor K. Yugindro Singh.
Prof. Singh became the VC in-charge by the virtue of his being appointed as pro-VC, illegally, by the suspended VC Prof. Adya Prasad Pandey, against whom there were charges of committing administrative and financial irregularities. The students, faculty, and staffs of MU were agitating since May 30th demanding the resignation of Pandey who is an ex-faculty member of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and is reportedly very close to home minister Rajnath Singh and PM Modi. The movement led his suspension by MHRD, but to continue his control, he appointed Singh as his replacement. As the process went against the institute statutes which do not provide discretion to the VC to appoint a pro-VC single-handedly, that too when he is under suspension, the university community resisted. The students said that, as they did not want to humiliate Prof. Singh and Pandey who entered into the campus with armed security personnel, they had a conversation in a closed room as suggested by Singh himself; but police were mischievously misinformed that they have been confined in a room for 2-3 hours and harassed. The reported misinformation is the basis on which the FIR has been lodged and raids were conducted without even a preliminary probe to crosscheck and verify the allegations.
Other than the fact that there are reports in the media that Pandey had been selected precisely for a saffronizing mission of the MU and he is close to the power corridors of Delhi and the RSS, the raid of 20th September should be seen in the light of decades-long repression of the Indian state on the people of Manipur that has been carried out by purchasing arms and recruiting soldiers using taxpayer’s money.
In November 2017, the RSS-BJP government of Manipur voluntarily extended the Disturbed Area tag of the state, a precondition for promulgation of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA) an instrument to suppress the ongoing indigenous peoples’ Self Determination movements. AFSPA permits suspension of non-derogable rights, like the ‘Right to Life’, ‘Right to Justice Remedy’ etc. and grants extraordinary powers to shoot and kill at will simply on the ground of suspicion that the person is a threat to law and order to the armed forces. The extensive militarization of Indian armed forces has led to widespread human rights violations, civilian casualties, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances, sexual harassment etc. with lack of accountability for the violations by the Indian Army officials operating under AFSPA since years. Although, the Congress has correctly stated the midnight raid of MU as “a new facet of fascism”, their clear intent is just to throw the fact into oblivion that it was the Congress regime which ran the fascist rule of terror in Manipur since decades. It was Congress who enacted fascistic laws like AFSPA and have suppressed all kind of dissent in Manipur.
Over the years there have been countless rapes, encounter deaths and other atrocities by armed forces personnel, with the culprits protected by AFSPA against judicial processes. According to the figures made available in Parliament and collected by the NHRC, between 2004-05 and 2013-14, a staggering 1,654 persons were killed in encounters. That is, approximately, one death in an encounter every second day. A parallel trend of custodial death shows that from 2013-14 till June 2016, while 470 persons died in police custody, another 1,358 filed complaints of torture by police personnel. This, of course, is a very conservative estimate as many people may not have complained. There are reports of 1,528 extra-judicial killings in Manipur from 2000 to 2012 by the Indian army units and police commandos. Moreover, the militarization also adds formidable pressure on communities’ agriculture, forest land, and water sources. Villagers have continuously resisted conversion of prime agricultural land and forest land into army camps and military establishments. Recently such protests against this fascist establishment were held in September 2017 in Sekmai area.
Throughout the period since 1958 protest against AFSPA and state repression had been the predominant issue of democratic people’s movement in Manipur. Recently in July 2017, students of MU protested the continued military deployment inside the university which hampered their academic life and freedom. Through the protest of naked middle-aged women under the banner of “Indian Army Rape Us” against the infamous rape and murder of Manorama by 17 Assam Rifles personnel in 2004, the 16 year long fast of Irom Sharmila against AFSPA, the continuous and consistent protests of the Meira Paibis (literally, women who carry flaming torches) against the continued state repression, the people of Manipur have exposed the undemocratic and fascist nature of the Indian “democracy”. In continuation with the history of fascistic repression by the expansionist Indian state in the guise of upholding peace and national security, the midnight incident only shows that the academic community, including faculty and students are not outside the reign of terror. Thus, the current movement of MU students and their fight against the repressive measures on the academic community should be seen as a part of the broader movement of the people of Manipur for democracy and should receive support and solidarity from the progressive-democratic sections of the society.