By Dr. MALEM NINGTHOUJA
Campaign for Peace and Democracy (Manipur)
On 10th October 2013 Assistant Professor Dr. Hanjabam Shukhdeba Sharma was assaulted by Professor Moirangthem Mani, Director, Academic Staff College, Manipur Central University during the 19th Orientation Programme of the ASC.
The assault was sparked off when Shukhdeba had an altercation with the programme coordinator O’Brien to ensure power supply to run power point projector. The browbeating altercations went ahead to the extent of Shukhdeba raising some sensitive questions regarding the transparency of the authority in appointing O’Brien to the post of coordinator.
He also questioned transparency and accountability of the Director, who subsequently barged into the class room and assaulted him in front of the colleagues to silence him!
In response to news headline with many circles condemning the assault and demanding justice, I had commented on a face-book post “Professor Mani should have been transferred to either a boxing academy where he can fight as long as he wants or to an Assam Rifles post so that he can be aggressive without second thought.” The militant expression of a professor cum director of an academic institution is unexpected. Those of us who practice academics are ashamed to learn from the media that the Manipur University was run by hooligans who disrespected human dignity and had no concern for comradeship.
As to address our curiosity may I request Professor Mani to kindly respond to few questions; (a) Why were power backup and other requirements such as kerosene oil and generator not pre-planned to ensure un-interrupt power supply during the orientation course? Why were the ‘students’ attending the course not informed in advance or peacefully convinced on this matter? (b) Is it true that O’Brien is not qualified to hold the post of coordinator? If true then under what conditions he was appointed and to what extent the appointment was transparent? (c) What was wrong if Shukhdeba raise the question of your accountability, transparency and integrity as the Director of the institution? (d) As a member of academic fraternity holding the highest elitist position as Director of an institution, to what extent would you justify the violent act of barging into the class room and physically assaulting a trainee? (e) To what extent would you own the moral responsibility for your lack of discipline and extra-academic coercive act and at the same time constructing a devilish image of yourself to the public?
The functioning of a university reflects the manner the peoples are governed. I believe the university authorities had never protested the presence of paramilitary camp inside the campus. I also suspect that there are correlations of militarisation (including increasing policing) of the university campus, fortification or enclosure in the name of security, and the aggressive attitude of the elitist authorities who run free hands in the university. Why? Rumours are flouting in the air about the university becoming a den of corruption and opportunism by a microscopic section in the aftermath of central and corporate funding. The enclosure projects and security installations are meant to protect their interest. On the other hand students and lower grade staffs had to remain obedient to their command. The Manipur University Students Union had been banned to prevent from spreading progressive ideology and democratic dissent among students. Those who raise voice against the authority are targeted. The character of Professor Mani substantiates my suspicion.
In this scenario the relative silence by most of the students of the Manipur University on the 10th October incident is not surprising. Most of them, including the teaching staffs are silent spectators to the ongoing destructive projects and social issues which are going to affect all in the long run. Perhaps, the Indian education system had taught most of our students to be passive spectator to the neo-colonial capitalist onslaughts. Most of them are being psychologically governed by bourgeoisie idealism, career obsession and individual opportunism. To protest the authority against abuse of human rights in the class room and destruction of peaceful democratic academic environment and to demand transparency and accountability are deliberately ignored. Most want to feign obedience with the hope to receive some sort of paternalism from the powerful. This moribund social habit gradually becomes a tradition of intellectual slavery.
Finally, as for Sukhdeba and other likeminded colleagues the struggle for justice had to be carried out from all fronts. The demand for power supply and questions that Sukhdeba had raised are legitimate. He can move into the Indian court or other human rights fronts until justice is delivered. But for the State and its institutions, the governor of Manipur, who is the head of Manipur state and the chancellor of the University, is the right person to immediately respond. It is an extra academic political affair of the rulers that funded the university and recruit obedient staffs to take a wise decision on the 10th October incident.