Presidency Agitators Vacate VC's Room; Committee Formed to Talk to Students

The students apologised for their unruly behaviour on Monday during their protests but refused to back down from their stand

Published: 25th August 2015 10:23 PM  |   Last Updated: 25th August 2015 10:40 PM   |  A+A-

By IANS

KOLKATA: Students agitating against alleged police assault vacated Presidency University vice chancellor Anuradha Lohia's room on Tuesday, even as she admitted there was trust deficit between the institution and the students but refused to quit and denied being affiliated to any political party.

Lohia named a seven-member committee to hold dialogue with the agitating students, who have refused to interact with the vice chancellor and stood by their demand for her resignation.

They had confined her for over a day in her office claiming non-action following alleged police assault.

"Resignation will not happen. I am not close to anybody. I am close to my family, my faculty and students," Lohia told media persons, responding to allegations that she was close to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the ruling Trinamool Congress.

On Tuesday morning, Lohia made her way into her chamber, but the agitating students made no effort to block her path, though some of them tied a piece of cloth on their mouths and held aloft placards protesting against her continuation in office.

Later, however, the students who had laid siege to the vice chancellor's office left the room. A student leader, however, said the agitation will go on in some form.

The university has been on the boil since Friday, with agitating students claiming many of them were roughed up by police during Mamata Banerjee's visit to the university's College Street campus.

But their protest has been likened to "hooliganism" and criticised by almost all sections.

Asked whether there was trust deficit between the students and the university, Lohia replied: "Clearly. Otherwise why would they feel that I am not being able to satisfy them?

"I am happy they want to talk to their own teachers. This is how it should be. The VC can't talk to everyone. I think the students have taken the right stand and I support it. I want them to talk to the HoDs (heads of departments).

The vice chancellor said she set up the committee since the students have declined to interact with her.

The committee comprises heads of six departments and the dean of students. They will be submitting a report in a week, she said.

"They will see what the students want and what can be done.

"The panel will also look into the grievances of students, their recommendations, and also how best we can implement the solutions that they have suggested.

"If the students want any further administrative clarification, we will form a committee which will be recommended by this committee," she said.

However, the agitating students asserted they would not interact with the committee.

"We are not accepting the committee and will not engage in any dialogue with the members," a student said, adding that they have a few demands which must be met.

Amid several academicians slamming the university authorities for inviting the chief minister to the campus, Lohia said that since President Pranab Mukherjee was unable to attend the third convocation ceremony, she extended the invitation to Banerjee as per protocol.

The students apologised for their unruly behaviour on Monday during their protests but refused to back down from their stand.

The students claim that the day before the chief minister arrived, a notification was issued, asking they must attend Banerjee's lecture.

Denouncing the move, the students have also pressed for action against those behind the vandalising of the heritage Baker Laboratory of the university in 2013.

The students had also called for a boycott of the university's third convocation on Saturday. However, the event took place without any interruption. Lohia was allowed to go home late on Saturday evening.

The state government has lent support to Lohia, saying there was no question of her stepping down, while opposition parties have slammed the Trinamool for interfering in education in the state.

Asked to comment on allegations of her being close to the chief minister, Lohia said when she went to invite Banerjee for the convocation she was asked what was going on in Presidency.

The VC said when she informed Banerjee that Presidency was going to sign three MoUs with three universities in the UK, the chief minister had welcomed it and promptly said whether she would wish to sign the MoUs during her (Banerjee's) London visit in July.

"If accepting that invitation means I am close to her, then so be it. But I was not the only VC there (London). There were four others.

"How come no one else was targetted? Maybe they think I am close to her but as far as I know, I am not close to anyone. I do not share any political party’s ideology," she said.

Lohia said she had only the interests of university in her mind. "If the CM has been benevolent enough to give us resources and funds, should we not celebrate it? Should we question my leanings?

"The CM said I want to see what all is happening at Presidency. Do you want me to tell her please don't come madam?" Lohia said.

The chief minister, Lohia said, had come to Presidency to give it funds. "If she is being so benevolent then why shouldn't we accept it ? I do not understand what problems these students have."

Earlier in the day, a small group of students came to the campus carrying placards and their mouths covered with pieces of cloth as a mark of protest against the VC.

The leaders of the agitating students said their protests against the VC would continue in some form.

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