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Violence, crime and politics at Panjab University

Thursday, April 15, 2010 09:38:32 AM, Alkesh Sharma, IANS

Chandigarh: Shootouts, cars on fire, ragging, display of money, muscle power and ugly politics. This is not a setup for a violent film on campus life, but the ground reality of Panjab University every now and then.

Last week, some miscreants had opened fire at Udey Wirring, president of the Panjab University Students’ Union (PUSU), his cousin and his father outside their house in Sector 11.

Acting swiftly, police arrested two leaders of the Students Organisation of Panjab University (SOPU), a rival students’ political party of PU and recovered a locally-made pistol from them.

Following this, some unidentified people burnt Udey’s SUV Pajero and Maruti Esteem car, parked in the courtyard of his house in the wee hours of Monday.

“We are taking these cases very seriously and our senior officials are investigating them. We have also increased police vigil both inside and outside the PU campus and we are keeping an eye on anti-social elements,” Senior Superintendent of Police S.S. Srivastava, told IANS.

According to police records, since 2005 nearly 30 criminal cases related to violence and involving PU’s rival political groups have been registered and over 90 people arrested or detained for questioning.

There are at least five students’ political groups like PUSU, SOPU, the Indian National Students Organisation (INSO), the National Students Union of India (NSUI) and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) active in PU.

However, PUSU and SOPU are traditional rivals and the majority of incidents involve activists of these parties. In fact, at most times the president of the Panjab University Campus Students’ Council (PUCSC) is elected from these two parties.

In the meantime, Panjab University authorities are also taking steps to curb the violence.

“Students come here to study and this is not a platform to depict their muscle and money power. The university should take stern action against the guilty and that will deter others from indulging in violence,” Manjit Singh, president of Panjab University Teachers’ Association, told IANS.

Naval Kishore, Dean Students’ Welfare (DSW) of PU, told IANS: “We are really worried about increasing incidents of violence involving PU students and we are making every possible effort to curb it. Foolproof security has been deployed at all the three gates of the university and besides checking the identity proofs of visitors they also check each and every vehicle before allowing it entry.”

Over 10,000 students - 70 percent being girls - study in around 65 research and teaching departments of the university. It is one of the oldest varsities of the country and is spread over 550 acres covering Sectors 14 and 25.

Besides Chandigarh Police officials, there are around 125 private security guards deployed on campus to maintain law and order. In some cases, even private security guards expressed helplessness.

“Most of the time, especially during late evening hours, outsiders accompany university students. But when we try to stop them, they try to threaten us,” said a private security guard at the university on condition of anonymity.

University sources told IANS that Vice Chancellor R.C. Sobti is contemplating a proposal to debar the promotion of a student to the next year or to the next semester if any criminal case is pending against him.

“If a student indulges in violence either inside or outside the campus and a police case is registered against him then he would be not promoted,” said the source.

The university is the alma mater of many senior bureaucrats and senior politicians, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

 

Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at alkesh.s@ians.in

 

 

 

 

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