S P E C I A L  E D I T O R I A L

Carry on, Professor!
The nation will be with you
By H.K. Dua

MANY people must have tried to swim against the tide in the cynical times the year 2006 came to represent, but across this vast country there are a few persons who tend to hold their ground and choose to do their duty, irrespective of the consequences. Among this select band must be included Professor Ram Prakash Singh, Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University, which is now in the news, although for the wrong reasons.

Professor R.P. Singh’s father was just a postmaster who thought of ensuring that his son had the best of education to chalk out his career. The son went on to do research in polymer science and engineering and gain international recognition while working at the prestigious IIT, Kharagpur. Two years ago, he accepted the invitation to take over as Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University. Despite having roots in Uttar Pradesh, he did not know what he was really in for.

Lucknow University is not an IIT. Its directory of alumni lists distinguished scholars and those who matter in different walks of life, but are now feeling shy of admitting that not long ago this was their alma mater. The university is now infested with an ambitious breed of boys, who owe allegiance to one political party or another, former students who use hostels as sanctuaries, musclemen parading as students and throwing their weight around, professional “student” union leaders and their cronies who roam around in the campus and the city in groups. Some of them carry guns, licensed or otherwise; others are given armed guards by Mr Mulayam Singh’s government at the taxpayers’ expense. These “student” leaders are distant from the idea of education.

Professor R.P. Singh is no longer finding time to carry on his research in the application of polymer science. His assignment now keeps him tied down to saving Lucknow University from the hoodlums and bullies who have made life difficult for the silent majority of teachers and the students who have joined the university for nothing but higher education that could equip them for facing life’s rigours ahead.

The battle between the professor and the union leaders has lately become fierce. He has taken up the mission to clean up the university. The student leaders are backed by none else than Mr Mulayam Singh and the Samajwadi Party, which thinks it pays more to catch them young for its own politics. Other parties are not innocent either, of using the Lucknow University campus for training their cadres.

The current crisis in the university was sparked off by the Vice-Chancellor’s decision to implement the guidelines for student union elections suggested by the Lyngdoh Committee appointed by none else than the Supreme Court. The student leaders would have none of it and chose to resort to large-scale violence that spilled over into the streets of the State capital last month. The Vice-Chancellor closed the university, cancelled the union election and gave an ultimatum to the students to vacate hostels within 24 hours.

The closure of the university came up in the Vidhan Sabha. And lo! what happened. The warring political parties of Uttar Pradesh — all of them — joined hands to criticise the Vice-Chancellor for closing the university. Mr Mulayam Singh’s administration would not even provide adequate security to the Vice-Chancellor and the university, which ought not have been denied to him in the first place.

Rightly, the Vice-Chancellor refused to yield to the dictates of the student leaders and their patrons in the Mulayam Singh government. Help ultimately came from the High Court, which ordered a reluctant State government to provide some security to the Vice-Chancellor, and to withdraw government-paid gunmen assigned to give protection to student leaders, political workers and contractors. “Gunners and security can no longer be status symbols, or protection for illegal activities,” said the High Court’s bench consisting of Justice Imtiyaz Murtaza and Justice Amar Saran.

The battle of Lucknow is not yet over. The Vice-Chancellor — perhaps alone in the 324 universities in India — has courageously decided not to let the State government, political parties and student unions leaders and their gunmen use the university as an arena for political and other extra- curricular activities. Support must come for the brave man from all other Vice-Chancellors, all right-thinking men and women in the country, opinion leaders, the media and others for standing up to pressures, political and of the other kind.

Carry on Professor Singh! The nation will be with you for doing your bit for education — and for righteousness.



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