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HNLU protests: After weeks of indefinite strike, Dr Sukh Pal Singh steps down as VC

This comes after the students of HNLU had begun an indefinite strike 23 days ago, asking the Vice Chancellor to step down accusing him of inaction against sexual harassment, financial mismanagement and academic decline

Written by Dipankar Ghose | Raipur | Updated: October 2, 2018 3:47:05 am
HNLU, Sukh Pal singh, Indian Express The university has seen student protests since late August based on allegations of sexual assault, mismanagement and restrictive timings of library and the hostels, especially for women. Source: (Twitter@HNLUsba)

After eight days of the second wave of protest, Hidayatullah National Law University Vice-Chancellor Dr Sukh Pal Singh resigned from the post, Monday evening. Senior government officials confirmed to the Indian Express that Singh had tendered his resignation to the Chancellor and it had been accepted with immediate effect.

This comes after the students of HNLU had begun an indefinite strike 23 days ago, asking the Vice Chancellor to step down accusing him of inaction against sexual harassment, financial mismanagement and academic decline. The VC had argued that the students were attempting to defy an order of the Supreme Court which had stayed a Chhattisgarh High Court order setting aside his extension of tenure as VC. The students had however argued that their protest was about the VCs “competence” and had nothing to do with the grounds of his appointment.

The university has seen student protests since late August based on allegations of sexual assault, mismanagement and restrictive timings of library and the hostels, especially for women. They called off their eight days of all-night protests after a meeting with Law minister Mahesh Gagda, where assurances were given and timings were extended.

However last week, Sukh Pal Singh returned after the stay order. A general body meeting with students followed where they confronted him with their allegations and asked him to resign by September 28, thus issuing a letter of no confidence. When Singh didn’t respond to it, the Student Bar Association and their president Snehal Ranjan Shukla, and vice president Swati Bhargava met the Chancellor, the Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh seeking Singh’s resignation. In the meanwhile, Singh appealed to students to end protests even threatening to shut the university sine die.

On Monday morning, however, 23 students began a hunger strike. When the Indian Express visited the University at 1 pm, five hours into their hunger strike, mattresses had been set up in the main hall, with students lying down on them. Snehal Ranjan Shukla, President of the SBA had said, ” We had a doctor come and check the status of 50 students yesterday. 23 were deemed okay to conduct a hunger strike. So that is the number that is on strike. But many others are also not eating in solidarity.”

By evening, however, news broke that Singh had resigned, prompting mass celebrations at HNLU. A representative of the SBA said, “After years of silent struggle, weeks of shouting our issues at the top of our lungs and hunger strike, the students of HNLU are finally free. Dr Sukhpal Singh has finally resigned.”

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