Reported by Santosh Jagdev
Bhubaneswar, Sep 26:
Hundreds of agitated students this afternoon blocked the National Highway-5, locked down the gates of Utkal University in Odisha capital in protest against the cancellation of students’ union elections.
Taking a serious note on series of students’ unrest in state’s premier educational institute in the city, the PG council today announced their decision to cancel this year students’ union election.
“There would be no students’ union election this year at the Utkal University. The decision was taken in a meeting today keeping in view the students’ safety in the campus,” PG council chairman Ranjan Kumar Bal informed after the PG council meeting held this afternoon.
Moments after the announcement of the decision, the students locked the gates and shouted slogans against the authorities and demanded rollback of the decision. Irate students blocked the National Highway-5 bringing the vehicular movement to a grinding halt.
“The decision of PG Council is totally undemocratic. The student union elections should be held to elect a representative who can hear the grievances of the student studying in the university. Therefore the election should be held, “Amit Jena, presidential candidate of Biju Chhatra Janata Dal (BCJD).
Two platoons of police forces have been deployed in front of the university campus main gate to maintain law and order situation. Bhubaneswar DCP Satyabrata Bhoi too reached the spot to persuade the agitating students to call off stir.
The top cop held discussions with the leaders of the students’ union and assured them to hold meeting with PG Council tomorrow and urge them to reconsider their decision.
The situation continues to remain volatile as students continue to shout slogans and agitate. All three major political forces inside the campus including BJD’s student wing BCJD, ABVP and NSUI have taken to the streets.
The blockade was lifted for a brief while after a woman driving an SUV fell unconscious after witnessing the blockade. The doors of the vehicle were locked and she was taken out with the help of police breaking the car glass. The woman was rushed to the Capital Hospital here in the police vehicle where she was declared brought dead.
The middle-aged woman might have died due to suffocation, sources said.
The students again continued with their sit in dharna near the gate and also blocked the highway.
“It is the university authorities that are responsible for the violence. Who stops them to deny entry to non-students inside the campus? The students are united. Moreover, the conditions for election are not that bad. The campus has been more or less quiet since some time now. We are not going to allow the authorities to get away with their authoritarian rule,” said an agitating PG student Sukant Sabat in front of the Vani Vihar gate.
“We have right to fight election in the university but unfortunately the university authorities are not allowing us to contest election,” presidential candidate of ABVP Anirudha Sahu alleged.
“The decision is not acceptable. It is an attempt to stiffle the voice of democracy. We shouldn’t succumb to the pressure of violence that is created by non students. I appeal to the PG council to reconsider their decision,” said Chinmay Sahu, Former President of the University and a budding BJD leader.
Notably, the university functionaries and the Commissionerate Police had a meeting earlier in the day to decide whether to conduct the poll or not as the university had witnessed a series of violence in the recent past.