MIT Director resigns after unprecedented student protests4 min read
Manipal: An indomitable show of force and resolve in equal measure by around 3500 students of the Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT) forced Manipal University (MU) to announce the resignation of Director Dr. Kumkum Garg on March 15.
Dr. Garg has been in the eye of controversy after making allegedly insensitive remarks about a student who was critically injured after falling off a campus bus. He later succumbed to his injuries.
Protestors gathered outside the .edu building a little past 5 p.m.,demanding the resignation of the Director. Dozens of policemen accompanied by MU security guards were deployed to maintain order.
As numbers swelled through the evening and the crowd grew restive, riot police were summoned as well.
The protestors raised slogans throughout the four hour protest demanding Dr. Garg’s resignation while simultaneously using choice expletives to deride her. They threw water bottles and eggs at officials and police as announcements were being made. Student representatives continously made appeals against violence and vandalism.
Dr. K Ramnarayan, Vice Chancellor, MU, initially came down from consultations within the .edu builing to appeal for calm and cooperation. The appeal was met with anger and frustration and chants for the Director’s resignation continued.
Upon further consultation with management behind closed doors, the VC returned to announce that the Director would proceed on leave and that the Joint Director would take over. MU also asked for a memorandum of demands to be presented by five to seven student representatives. This was met with sharp disapproval as the crowd relentlessly pursued the resignation. Protestors also rejected an offer of three holidays from the VC.
When the VC retreated into the building for a third round of consultation by management, students began to get increasingly agitated. Collective pushing and jostling in the front half of the crowd against the security barricade led one to assume that they were preparing to storm the building. After a brief scuffle with law enforcement officials present, the VC arrived to announce: “We have accepted your demand. Your Director has announced her resignation. Classes will resume from tomorrow.”
Earlier in the day, a memorial service was held at the MIT quadrangle for Ishan Nihalani, the second year MIT student who passed away that morning. Nihalani’s parents have taken his body back to their home.
Before the memorial service, students met at Kamath Circle (KC), where they discussed the issues that would be presented before the authorities. Issues like the dissolution of the sitting Student Council (SC), revision of the SC candidate criteria, elections for SC and redressal for Nihalani’s family were discussed. A third year MIT student, who wishes to be anonymous, said, “The SC is nominated by the management. They see your organisational skills and your GPA.” A decision on the resignation of Dr. Garg was suspended until a meeting with officials.
After the meeting, the students marched to the quadrangle with banners reading ‘We want justice’ and ‘We want the director to resign’, chanting slogans like ‘Kumkum Garg, haaye haaye’ (Kumkum Garg, down down).
At the memorial service, Dr. Garg read out a condolence message to Nihalani’s parents and left soon after. Agitated students demanded she return and listen to their grievances. Dr. G K Prabhu, Registrar, MU, addressed the students,saying, “Whatever concerns have been raised are open for discussion.” Dhruv Seth, a third year MIT student and one of the student representatives replied, “We don’t need promises, we don’t need assurances, we need action!” The VC remained unavailable for comment to TMJ throughout the day.
Dr. Garg emerged to address students after a lengthy board meeting. She formally apologised to the gathering once again. “I too was shocked and traumatised,” she said. In response to chants for her resignation, she replied, “If the management asks me to resign on this issue, I will.” She also said that she would strongly recommend the redressal for Nihalani’s family to the management.
“The management is the one that messed up, but in the end we’ll end up paying for all the damages done”, said Armaan Shahanshah, a first year MIT student.
Unhappy with the outcome of the meeting, angry protesters marched to the .edu building. MIT property was vandalised on the way. Notice boards near the Chief Warden’s office and plant pots at the Innovation Centre (IC) were broken and a security booth at the MIT gate was damaged.
Seth, student representative, told TMJ that the SC would work in collaboration with around five student representatives and work on the memorandum.
Sub-edited by Aditya Valiathan Pillai