The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has approached the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), seeking permanent deployment of a contingent on the Visva-Bharati University campus in Santiniketan.
This is the first time the Union government has officially pitched for deployment of paramilitary forces in its educational institution. Currently, no central university has paramilitary forces or even police personnel stationed permanently on campus.
The HRD Ministry is learned to have written to Rajesh Ranjan, CISF Director General, last month. The letter, according to sources, states that the cost of deployment will be borne by the University out of the grants it receives from the government.
The Ministry’s letter has been written at the behest of Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty. As first reported by The Indian Express on October 30, Chakrabarty had cited incidents of confrontation between the university administration and students and karamcharis (staff), to request for CISF deployment on the campus.
In his letter, Chakrabarty has said that private security personnel currently employed by the university owe their allegiance to the “TMC local bosses” and, hence, “disobey” Visva-Bharati’s security officer “with impunity”.
He had cited the protest by students in May this year against the increase in the price of application forms. The students had held a sit-in protest, preventing faculty members and officials from leaving the university campus. The V-C had alleged that in such instances, the security guards “remained silent onlookers” and even created enabling conditions for the protesters.
Deployment of paramilitary forces on educational campuses is a sensitive issue and often perceived to be an attack on the right to dissent or a way to pre-empt student protests. In 2017, Banaras Hindu University had made a similar request, but the HRD Ministry did not push the request with CISF.
However, two years later, the Ministry seems to have changed its stand on the issue. In its letter to the CISF, it has argued that Visva-Bharati is not a closed campus and there have been incidents of chain-snatching and that private security guards on campus have failed to do their duty.