The other day an assistant professor at the Central Department of Sociology of Tribhuvan University (TU) was fatally attacked when he stood against the padlocking of the department. The miscreants hit Prem Bahadur Chalaune as he was going to the classroom. He was rushed to an intensive care unit of a hospital for the treatment. This violent act allegedly carried out by an organisation of students affiliated to opposition party took place a day after the country marked the World Teacher Day. The associations of university teachers have condemned the barbaric act. However, a mere censure of the brutal event is unlikely to end the growing impunity and the politicisation of the criminal activities. As the teacher has already lodged complaint against those involved in the attack on him, there should not be any political meddling to obstruct a thorough and independent investigation.
Malaise The incident has exposed one serious malaise besetting the nation’s higher education, especially within the TU. It indicates that a significant number of youths do not get enrolled in different faculties and departments in the university to pursue their higher studies but to do politics. This incident coincided with another reckless vandalism that rocked the assembly meeting of State 5 held to decide its name and capital. It is appreciable that the three lawmakers of opposition Nepali Congress, who were involved in the violent act, are likely to face music from the party. The NC needs to understand that if it fails to cooperate to maintain law and order in the academic institutions, the youths, who attacked the teacher, can become a burden for the party in the future. They will continue the legacy of the destructive acts and conduct in the parliament and other equally important institutions.
The attack on Chalaune is not only the attack on the teachers who believe in Marxism or those who disagree with the ideology of NC. Rather it also disclosed the incapability of university teachers to resolve the disputes with their students within the ambit of varsity. Still there is time before the situation turns worse. All the teachers should at least come to a bottom line to maintain sound academic atmosphere within the TU. Would our professors dare to ask the students to come to the university only to study? The youths would fulfill their dreams after completing their education of certain level. But, while they are in the university, they need to be the students. In this context, the incident has also posed a threat to all TU teachers irrespective of any political leanings. The tendency of inviting political intervention in the department is inappropriate for the academics. If they cannot set aside the muscles power of the students, they will be led them to commit academic hara-kiri in the days to come.
Those were the days when students, especially at the higher level education, were the main driving force of the opposition politics. Nepal's first student movement, Jayatu Sanskritam, was instrumental in generating the massive protest against the despotic Rana rule in June 1947. It had encouraged the general public to fight for the fundamental democratic rights in the country. In May and April 1979, a political event that occurred outside the country gave way to a massive agitation which ultimately forced the then King to allow the people to choose an alternative political system. The irate students went to the Pakistani Embassy to hand over a protest letter against the controversial trial and execution of Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in April that year. The Nepali students did not return back to the class rooms from the street for the months and their protests were transformed into the nationwide movement. The student wings of the Communist Party of Nepal and Nepali Congress had led the movement. The movement, for the first time, compelled the autocratic King to bow down before the masses. Two decades earlier democracy was hijacked in a royal takeover. Against the backdrop, the student movement of 1979 forced the king to announce the referendum to choose either the reformed Panchayat system or multiparty democracy. The changed situation provided an opportunity to the political parties, mainly the CPN and NC to popularise the idea of multiparty democracy. The movement made another victory with the abolition of Rastrabadi Swatantra Bidhyarthi Mandal, a government-operated student wing that was infamous for the act of vandalism. An instance is enough for an organisation to bruise its image. Just after the referendum, though the Palace controlled so-called election commission had declared the victory of party-less system, the Royal Academy under the chancellorship of the all-powerful King incorporated a word mandaley as a noun in the Nepali dictionary. According to the official dictionary of Nepali language, mandaley means a person with ill-intention and vandalistic character. It is depressing to note that after many years of disappearance of mandaley, its disgusting spirit is still alive inside the university. The teacher was assaulted in broad daylight on the premises of the university, which reminded us of the villainous acts of mandaleys. Nepal Student Union that affiliated to the NC has a glorious history of struggle for the democratic movement. Hence, NC along with the NSU needs to come forward to bring the culprit to book. They should not provide a protection to the bunch of hooligans.
Eye-opener The disgraceful incident would be an eye-opener for TU administration and the teachers regarding the current socio-political system of the country. Gone were the days when the students were compelled to fight for the democratic rights because the political parties were banned. Now let the students be full-time students and the colleges the centre of excellence. The nation needs real experts to enable the political leadership to resolve the burning socio-economic problems, thereby fulfilling popular aspirations and needs.