Lessons from a campus dharna

Last week, the Vice Chancellor of Utkal University took everyone by surprise when he resorted to silent fasting in front of the very office from where he has been mandated to run the affairs of Odisha

Published: 18th October 2017 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th October 2017 02:53 AM   |  A+A-

Last week, the Vice Chancellor of Utkal University took everyone by surprise when he resorted to silent fasting in front of the very office from where he has been mandated to run the affairs of Odisha’s oldest university. The 12-hour satyagraha by Soumendra Mohan Patnaik was unprecedented. Earlier, he had faced protests over the cancellation of students’ union polls following a spate of campus violence. While the VC’s action was intended to bring back peace to the campus, it was symbolic of all that was wrong with the prestigious Utkal University—not the only institution to see a rise in violence.

In March, the VC of Ravenshaw University Prakash Sarangi resigned over campus unrest but the chancellor saved the day by not accepting his resignation. Why are the state’s top universities plunging into such crises? Is it not symptomatic of the current political situation? Put in perspective, the “introspective silent fasting” by Patnaik was a bold commentary on the state of politicisation of campuses not just in Odisha but across India. A bitter fight among political parties to grab power and control the narratives of students affairs is behind this increased unrest. In most cases, violence is orchestrated because the parties realise they are in no position to win. Ironically, no party is ever known to hold an agitation seeking improvement in academic climate and activities.

But what was appalling was how the state government reacted to it. After the dharna, Higher Education Minister Ananta Das said the VC did not inform the government of his actions. Wasn’t the dharna strong enough a message? When violence was raging in Delhi University earlier this year, the then President Pranab Mukherjee said temples of learning must resound with creativity, not propagate a culture of unrest. The Centre’s New Education Policy says students’ unions play a positive role in furthering the interests of democracy. The onus, though, will be on states like Odisha to ensure campuses don’t become casualties to political vested interests.

Stay up to date on all the latest Editorials news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)

Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp