Presidency University Vice-Chancellor Anuradha Lohia formed a seven-member committee to hold talks with the agitating students, who vacated her chamber on Tuesday after occupying it for four days while demanding her resignation.
“When I came in today, three students were blocking my way. I brought them inside. Their elected union leader told me they don’t wish to discuss the matter with me but with a committee. So, we have decided to set up a seven-member committee, which will comprise six heads of departments and the dean of students as member secretary,” she told mediapersons.
The V-C added: “The committee will give me a report after seven days about what the students want, what can be done and what cannot be done. It will also include grievances of the students, their recommendations and how best we can implement the solutions that they have suggested.”
Lohia said if students wanted any further administrative clarification, another committee will be formed which will be recommended by this panel. Administrative officials such as the registrar, controller of exams, finance officers and assistant registrar will be its members.
Trouble started last Friday when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the campus to attend the university convocation’s inaugural function. Students not only showed the CM black flags but also tried to gherao her car. The protesting students then alleged that they were assaulted by the security men who accompanied Mamata. After she left, they began demanding Lohia’s resignation and gheraoed her for 26 hours at her office.
When asked whether she was “close to the CM”, Lohia said it seems that way as she went to invite Mamata for the university’s convocation.
“It is protocol that if the President was coming to the university, the state CM should be invited. When I went to invite her, she asked me what was happening at the university. I told her about our academic programmes. I also mentioned that we were going to sign MoUs with three UK universities.
She promptly said ‘that is such a good thing to do… would you mind doing it in London where I am going after a month’,” she added.
“If accepting such an invitation means I am close to her, then so be it. But closeness in my opinion means something else. I do not share any political party’s ideology… Yes, I went to London with the CM. I went as she asked me to go for an administrative meeting. I was not the only V-C there. There were four others. How come no one else was targeted? What have I done, which has politicised anything here? I have only worked for the university and if the CM has been benevolent enough to give us resources and funds, should we not celebrate?” the V-C said.
Asked about photographs where she was found bowing before the CM while receiving the letters of grant approval, Lohia said: “There is a picture, which shows I have bent down quite a lot. Let me tell you the culture I come from. I am a Marwari. We do not touch anyone’s feet. But if we see any elder or anyone of status come to our house, we bow. I bowed to the chancellor, to whoever is my senior. This is my culture. If that is viewed in a sarcastic or sardonic manner, it is your loss.”
She added that while it was the duty of the government to provide funds to universities, it was “benevolent of the CM to do so considering the cash-strapped condition of the state”.
“She was not benevolent to Anuradha Lohia. She was benevolent to Presidency University and she must have had a hard time gathering this fund… may be from funds from other universities. I am sure other universities are annoyed that Presidency is getting such funds but the CM made this commitment in 2012 to my predecessor,” said Lohia.
“I was only the recipient of the grants and before the work finishes, my term will be over. The successor will get the glory of the second campus starting operations. We are instrumental in making Presidency going forward,” she added.
The protesting students, after their general body meeting, however, refused to budge from their demand seeking Lohia’s resignation.
“It has been decided that we will not speak to any committee member because it has been formed by the V-C and doesn’t even include the registrar. Again, this proposal of a dialogue comes after a hungerstrike and a 26-hour ghreao. We will give our stand in writing to the registrar tomorrow. Our demand for the VC’s resignation remains,” said Trisha Chanda, a third-year economics student and general secretary of Presidency University Students’ Union Council (PUSUC).
“When she (Lohia) came in the morning, she forced her way inside and so we did not create any hustle. If she is already occupying the office then what is the point of gheraoing her chair? “ Chanda added.
The student’s softening stance came after both the state government and Lohia made it clear that she was not going to put in her papers.
“My inbox is full with messages from people I don’t know… messages that have requested me not to resign. I will not stop at petty matters. Let them (agitating students) express themselves. They are very young… We don’t give them enough creative outlet maybe. It’s alright. Five years down the line, they will be very embarrassed,” Lohia said.