Gorakhpur: Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members, who claim to follow the organisation’s motto of ‘Knowledge, Modesty and Unity’, allegedly beat up the registrar of Gorakhpur University, Professor Ajay Singh, and pushed and shoved the vice-chancellor, Professor Rajesh Singh, on Friday (July 21) afternoon.
The VC’s office was ransacked and a flower pot was hurled at his car. The alleged ABVP members also attacked police personnel who were trying to escort the VC out of the campus. Later the police lathi-charged and arrested eight members. To get the arrested persons released, other ABVP members then blocked the road in front of the Cantt police station, which ended in the police resorting to lathi charge once again.
On the complaint of university proctor Satyapal Singh, the Cantt Police registered an FIR under IPC Sections 147, 342, 427 and 323 against eight students of the university, one contractor and 13 outsiders.
The ruckus erupted in the administrative block of Gorakhpur University when the VC refused to meet ABVP members who were protesting on several issues, including a fee hike, and began to leave his office. The ABVP members then attacked Rajesh, although he was being escorted by the police. While the police and university guards somehow managed to shield him, the officiating registrar Ajay was surrounded by ABVP members. A video circulating on social media shows several young men with saffron gamchhas around their necks push him on the ground and kick him.
Several videos of the incident have gone viral. One of the videos shows ABVP members trying to pull Rajesh by his waist. During the tussle, an attempt was made to slap him and he barely resisted being pushed down. Two policemen who tried to rescue him also fell prey to the attackers. One policeman was thrashed, his badge was snatched and his cap was pulled. Another policeman was pushed to the ground and beaten up. In response, the police personnel also hit ABVP protesters, some of whom were injured.
Earlier, on July 13, the proctor had also been assaulted by alleged ABVP members who were burning an effigy of the VC at the university gate. He gave a statement in the Cantt police station, but the police neither registered an FIR nor took any action.
The university administration had suspended four students and barred the entry of four outsiders for assaulting the proctor.
ABVP members carried out a demonstration on June 26 and presented a memorandum to the VC regarding the fee hike, demanding proper hostel arrangements, student union elections, arrangements for provision of degrees in ten days, timely declaration of exam results, ensuring admission of EWS candidates in research entrance examination in the Hindi department and seeking investigation into alleged irregularities in the recruitment of assistant professors.
The protest began at the administrative office on July 18 regarding the fee hike and lifting of suspension orders of ABVP members. On Friday, the fourth day of the dharna, there was a ruckus over the vice-chancellor’s refusal to meet the protestors.
The ABVP has denied any responsibility for the attack on the VC and registrar and vandalism of their offices, saying that it was carried out by miscreants who attacked the registrar and university guards and threw pots at the VC’s car. ABVP’s organising secretary Haridev alleged that the VC asked the police to lathicharge the members and eight of them were arrested.
A statement issued by the university’s media and public relations office about the incident read, “An FIR has been registered against the miscreants who forcefully entered the vice-chancellor’s office located in the administrative building and assaulted the officials. The students involved in the attack have been expelled from the university with immediate effect.”
The statement also said, “Involvement of some contractors has also been reported who financed the entire incident. These contractors have been blacklisted from the university and FIR has been registered against them. Their entry on the university campus has also been banned. Some teachers were also found to be involved in the incident. Action is being taken against them as well.”
According to the statement given to the police, at around 11 am on July 21 some people, including some students, forcefully entered the administrative building of the university. They started creating a ruckus on campus by vandalising equipment, flower pots, mirror, chairs and other things in the VC’s office, as well as his car. The university officials including the VC, finance officer, registrar, controller and others were locked in their cells. Some external elements were also encouraging the unruly students to action. The attackers deliberately obstructed official work of the university staff, which forced them to call the police for security. However, they continued to create a nuisance even in the presence of the police and refused to calm down even when the police tried to convince them.
The statement continues that the VC was somehow escorted out under the protection of the police, in view of the impending threat to him. Other university officials also managed to escape when they got the opportunity. But the registrar fell into the hands of the miscreants and when he tried to pacify them, the miscreants, some of whom were familiar to him, launched an attack with the aim of killing him. He was slapped, punched and hit on the back of his head with a blunt object, which caused injury and blood loss. As a result, he fell on the ground but the miscreants continued to attack him and he received injuries on his whole body.
With some intervention, he was rescued from the attackers but by then he had suffered grave injuries. The registrar has recently undergone coronary angioplasty for stent placement. There was every possibility that the attack by the unruly elements could have cost the registrar his life. The entire incident was captured on the CCTV camera installed near the spot.
The university proctor, Satyapal, claimed that he was attacked on July 13 for stopping miscreants from burning an effigy of the VC at the university gate. He said he even gave a statement but the Cantt Police did not register an FIR. No preventive or any other action was taken, which emboldened the unruly elements to carry out the fresh attack, he said. He also said that the contractor Piyush Singh is the main conspirator in the attack on the registrar.
Haridev said, “The activists of ABVP’s Gorakhpur University unit were protesting peacefully for the last four days against the irregularities prevailing in the university and the orders related to suspension and ban on entry of ABVP workers. But the VC refused to speak to the protesting students and began to leave his office accompanied by heavy police force. When the ABVP protesters requested to talk to him again, CO Yogendra Singh and university chowki in-charge Amit Chaudhary began lathi-charging them. Police presence emboldened VC Prof Rajesh Singh and he resorted to lathicharge. They even misbehaved with female activists. One activist Deepak Pandey was seriously injured and many others have also suffered injuries. ABVP activists Mayank Rai, Rishabh Singh, Arpit Kasaudhan, Prince Tiwari, Shakti Singh, Shivam Pandey, Shubham Rao and Alok Gupta were taken to Cantt police station by the police. ABVP condemns such gruesome handling of the students, and if the activists are not released, ABVP will be forced to carry out violent agitation.”
VC Rajesh Singh’s controversial past
The three-year term of this VC ends on September 5. The process for the selection of a new VC has already been initiated by the chancellor.
Rajesh has run into controversies several times during his tenure. He has been accused of acting arbitrarily in defiance of the university’s statutes, starting more than five dozen courses without proper approval from the state government and making necessary arrangements, harassing teachers and being involved in financial irregularities.
Hindi department Professor Kamlesh Gupta was suspended twice for questioning the VC. His suspension order was withdrawn after the high court stayed it, but a few days later he was suspended again. Gupta carried out a protest, and seven professors who supported his protest were issued show cause notices and lost one day’s salary. When chaos erupted in the university, the OSD to the chancellor immediately reached Gorakhpur to handle the situation.
The VC allowed the setting up of a Department of Physical Education, Institute of Engineering and Technology and Institute of Agriculture and Natural Sciences without a proper building, teaching faculty and infrastructure, and accepted admissions for 67 new courses.
In April 2021, Rajesh had removed the then registrar, Omprakash, from his post, accusing him of non-cooperation, and made Ajay the officiating registrar. Omprakash stood his ground and challenged the VC’s decision, claiming that according to the University Act, the VC did not have the power to remove him from the post. Later, the state government also intervened and said that the VC cannot remove the registrar. The dispute ended with the transfer of the registrar.
Soon after, the VC had another confrontation with the president of the University Teachers’ Association, Professor Vinod Singh, following which the latter resigned from the post. Since then, teachers’ union elections have not been conducted.
Rajesh has also had several confrontations with the office bearers of the College Teachers Association (GUACTA) affiliated to Gorakhpur University.
Students of the university have been agitating to demand student union elections and examinations for about 1,000 pre-PhD students under the new system, as well as against poor conditions of hostels, the fee hike and other issues.
Recently, proctor Professor Gopal Prasad had resigned, accusing the VC of behaving indecently and pressurising him to do inappropriate things. The VC is also accused of caste bias and of favouring a few teachers and handing them most university posts.
However, Rajesh has always remained unperturbed by these allegations. He cites getting the university’s A++ accreditation in the NAAC and starting 67 new courses as his major achievements. During his tenure, he has often tried hard to prove his closeness to the BJP and the RSS and, therefore, many have been wondering about the real reason behind the attack on him by the workers of RSS’s subsidiary student organisation.
Translated from the Hindi original by Naushin Rehman.