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Manipal students without escorts – 400 vacate tech hostels in sikkim

Posted by Ramesh Khati on September 10, 2009

Students board a bus to Siliguri on the SMIT campus around 10am on Wednesday.

Students board a bus to Siliguri on the SMIT campus around 10am on Wednesday.

Sept. 9(The Telegraph): Nearly 400 students of the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology today arrived in Siliguri without police escorts, saying they would return only after the authorities promised security and normality on the campus.

Since 6.30am today, the students started leaving the campus in Mazitar, 44km from Gangtok, for their homes by the Sikkim Nationalised Transport (SNT) buses that brought them to Siliguri. Most of them were annoyed with the security arrangements at their hostels and accused the SMIT authorities of negligence.

“We paid a huge amount for our courses and only because of that, we will return to the SMIT to complete our studies. The management of the institute, however, will have to ensure our security on the premises,” a first-year student of applied electronics and instrument and a resident of Bandel in Hooghly district said at the SNT bus stand in Siliguri. It took the students around four hours to come to Siliguri

S.S. Pabla, the vice-chancellor of Sikkim Manipal University to which the engineering college is affiliated, however said in Gangtok today that the SMIT authorities would approach police for a permanent picket on the campus. “I thank the police and the state government for defusing the situation. I also appeal to the police to take up the investigations sensitively as the future of students is at stake. We will open the institute soon,” he said.

Following a series of clashes at the SMIT since Sunday, many students had decided to leave the hostels, which have around 4,000 boarders. The SMIT had announced an indefinite shutdown and had promised to escort those willing to go home. What had started as an altercation on Sunday over a foul committed in a friendly volleyball match had snowballed into clashes between boarders and the day scholars, who yesterday laid siege to the hostels by blocking the roads leading out of the campus. In the brick battle that followed, eight students were injured.

The students said they come out of the institute on their own risk and no police escort was provided to the buses that brought them to Siliguri. Some boarders, however, said they had been escorted till Rangpo, the town on the Sikkim-Bengal border.

“We saw two police constables, carrying sticks, seated in a bus that carried some of the students. If this is security, we have nothing more to say,” a first year student of mechanical and a resident of Upper Assam said at New Jalpaiguri station. “Around 400 of us have left the campus.”

Another first year student of civil engineering and a resident of Bongaigaon in Assam said: “We will return after October 5. We hope that everything will become normal by then.”

In Sikkim, the superintendent of police of East district, M.S. Tuli, said 130 taxis and 18 buses had been arranged to ferry the students down to Siliguri. “They have been vacating the hostels from early in the morning and we had asked our counterparts in Bengal for cooperation and help as well as security for the students,” Tuli said. He added that the mob that had surrounded the SMIT campus dispersed at 9.30 last night.

However, no police or administrative official of the Bengal government was seen at SNT bus stand or NJP railway station. The students boarded the trains and buses to their hometowns on their own.

The inspector-general of police, north Bengal, K.L. Tamta, conceded that no policemen accompanied the students as they had not been approached for such arrangements.

“But I had instructed the circle-inspector of Kalimpong, who met the students at Rangpo and gave them emergency numbers of police stations en route to Siliguri as well as the number of the officer-in-charge of the GRP at New Jalpaiguri in case they needed any help.

The police also patrolled the NH31C all the way from Rangpo to Teesta to ensure that there was no trouble. Ministers Asok Bhattacharya and Kanti Ganguly had contacted me as they were concerned about the events in Mazitar,” Tamta said.

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