Arrested, termed anti-national and expelled: Sikkim's public views Gyalshing College's decision as biased and unjustified
On February 3, 2021, approximately 30 students of Gyalshing College staged a demonstration outside the Education Department at the capital demanding the completion of their college infrastructure. The demonstration lasted for five days as police officers arrested some students on the fifth day who were later tagged anti-national, the infamous rhetoric of modern-day Indian politics, by the Political Secretary to the Chief Minister Jacob Khaling.
The students were granted bail but returned home without a proper dialogue. A few days later on February 19, four of them - Pravin Upreti (Sociology), Praveen Basnet (Political Science), Nakul Sharma (Physical Education) and Lok Nath Chettri (English) were expelled by the college disciplinary board.
Prior to the expulsion, the parents of the expelled students received a letter from the administration calling for a meeting. The parents of one of the students had to attend the meeting via a phone call. Later, a meeting was held at Principal Kishore Kumar Rai’s office on February 19 with other faculty members.
Both the parents and the students denied receiving the letter of expulsion and claimed that they had done nothing wrong by protesting for early completion of the college.
“The college administration expelled us for participating in the demonstration earlier at Gangtok, while the decision was already made by the administration to expel us, which was undemocratic we were just called to receive the expulsion letter”, said Pravin Upreti. “Our parents disagreed and argued that the protest was done for the college betterment and didn’t receive the letter but at last it was left in the chairs of our concerned parents.”
“Since over thirty students had participated during the demonstration process at the secretariat but only four of us were expelled, this was a partial decision made by the administration which indicates that a feudal law governing,” he added.
“It’s unfair just to expel four students. If the college administration wants to take disciplinary action then everyone should be expelled not only those four,” said another student.
Principal Kishore Kumar Rai explained that when students had to sign an undertaking during the admission process stating that they were not allowed to supersede college administrators or in any way defame the reputation of the college, which if violated would lead to disciplinary action against the students.
“The demonstration done by the students at the Gangtok was against the disciplinary laws of the college administration and due to which four of them got expelled from the college”, said Rai.
Soon, the Sikkim Democratic Front student wing released a press statement condemning the act of expulsion, stating:
“The current SKM government has expelled four study students from college doing the most disgusting act in the democratic history of Sikkim. Even though the Sikkim government has not used bitter words towards anyone, has not harmed the law and order anywhere, the society has already been exposed to the students demanding their natural rights from the college, the dictatorship, jungle and intolerant political era in Sikkim has started.
College students demanding academic campus, asking for appointment with the state education minister is such a heinous crime that they have to wash their hands from their academic life? SDF Party Student Front of such heinous anti-democratic, anti-education, anti-student, anti-youth steps by the SKM government.
It is the fundamental right of the people to keep their words in democracy, to protest, to register the protest. The SKM government has now started to destroy human rights after the democratic rights of the people. The SKM government has assaulted the fundamental right of students to learn education by taking the demands and conflicts of students in hostility. SDF Student Front stops saying it's a black day in Sikkim's educational and democratic history.
The SDF party and all its public organizations stand in favor of the rights of the people and their justified struggle. We demand the Sikkim government - the suspension of those students of Gaming College should be removed immediately.”
Another press release issued by Dr Bina Basnett, the President of Hamro Sikkim Party demanded the expulsion to revoke the expulsion of the four students. “Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, a party whose foundation was based on the very idea of revolution, sadly today is on a rampage to oppress people who voice against their incompetence.
HSP strongly condemns the expulsion of those four students from Geyzing Government College and putting their future at risk. This is a highly cowardly act of the SKM government, where power is being used to crackdown on dissent. To abridge citizens fundamental rights of free expression and speech. In a democracy, it is important for the people to voice out when the Government tries to push forward a repressive agenda against dissenting voices. HSP demands the Government of Sikkim to reinstate the students at the earliest or HSP shall come forth to highly oppose it,” reads the statement.
The expulsion of students caused a stir in various educational institutions throughout the state. A student from Sikkim university said, “The expulsion of the students of Sikkim government college Gyalsing is a threat to the liberty of students around the state, the students were doing no such wrong things as they were only demanding for the basic facilities a college or a university should have and it’s due duty of the government and administrators to clarify things for them as they are paid for these kinds of purposes only.”
“It’s a complete and open threat to all the other students around that if you go against the system and try to change it you have to face such consequences,” she added.
“Students are future of tomorrow and every student has right to education which is given by the Indian constitution and no such body, whether the administration or the government has right to snatch away the right, and in case of any indisciplinary situation as such the administration should be keen enough to give a chance and make them understand things rather than completely taking away their educational rights”, chimed another.
“They didn’t just expel those four students. They murdered the future of those students”.
The Sikkim Krantikari Morcha’s anti-national jibe stands starkly in contrast with their recent initiative #ReadandGrow, which aims to educate children and uplift the reading and learning process. It must be understood that in the process of reading books, there are many that also talk about anti-authoritarianism and protests against freedom of expression. If young people are to read and grow, then there cannot be a clampdown on what they choose to learn from, whether it be a book or by experience.
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