A 48-hour statewide shutdown called by six students’ organisations in Manipur partially affected normal life in the state, PTI reported, citing unidentified government officials, on Thursday. The protestors are demanding the release of arrested teachers and students of Manipur University in Imphal.
All shops in the two major markets in Imphal – Paona and Thangal Bazaar – were closed. Most vehicles stayed off the roads, and schools and colleges were shut, the officials said. Fuel pumps in the state remained open and were guarded by security personnel.
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had appealed to student groups on Wednesday to withdraw their call for the strike, which began at midnight. He added that the government is ready to hold talks with the students “anywhere and at any time”.
As many as 89 students and teachers of the varsity were arrested on September 21, and the strike call was issued the day after. Manipur University has been the site of intense protests over the last few months. The university was shut between May 31 and August 23, as the Manipur University Students’ Union, backed by the Manipur University Teachers’ Association, agitated for the removal of Vice Chancellor Adya Pandey, whom they accused of “administrative ineptitude” and “saffronisation”.
Pandey was sent on leave on August 2, but returned earlier this month, and announced that he would “resume” his duties. He suspended the university students’ and teachers’ unions for “subversive activities”. On September 17, however, the Union ministry suspended Pandey till the completion of the inquiry against him.
Before his suspension, Pandey appointed Y Yugindro Singh as the university’s pro vice chancellor and reinstated M Shyamkesho Singh as the registrar-in-charge. The students’ union and the teachers’ association had objected to Y Yugindro Singh and M Shyamkesho Singh’s appointments, claiming that they amounted to violation of the memorandum of understanding that they signed with the government to end their agitation. But a September 19 order by the Ministry of Human Resource Development upheld these appointments.
Y Yugindro Singh and security forces allegedly broke the lock of the vice chancellor’s office on September 20. As many as 89 students and teachers were subsequently arrested, based on a complaint by Yugindro Singh that his office had been surrounded.
On Wednesday, N Biren Singh told reporters at the state secretariat in Imphal that the protestors should remember that Yugindro Singh was appointed by an order of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. He said the agitators should “introspect the reason for bandh and it’s negative impact”. The chief minister said all government offices will continue to function normally during the strike.
Manipur Chief Secretary J Suresh Babu also issued an order asking government officials to attend work, failing which disciplinary action would be taken. On Thursday, government offices remained open.