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Presidency VC refuses to quit, protests fail to disrupt convocation

IANS  |  Kolkata 

Presidency University Vice Chancellor Anuradha Lohia on Saturday stood resolute on her decision to not quit, and said Governor K.N. Tripathi supported her stand, after some students confined her on Friday night demanding her resignation for non-action during an alleged police assault.

The students have been agitating, saying many of them were roughed up by police during the Friday visit of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The students also called for a boycott of the university's third convocation on Saturday. However, the event took place without any interruption.

"No one boycotted the convocation. Only a few students didn't come which is fair. I don't think they are unfriendly elements... they are as mainstream as the rest.

"I have deep respect for each one of my students. Some of them may differ in attitude. I respect that," Lohia told media persons after the convocation.

"Whatever you have done is the right thing," Lohia quoted the governor as saying.

"We are going to preserve the image of the institute which is one of scholarship and of academic excellence," she said, asserting that the "rather unpleasant" incident will not dent the image of the prestigious establishment.

Talking to media persons, the governor too expressed his displeasure saying educational institutions were meant for learning and not agitations.

Lohia who dubbed the demand for her resignation "illogical", after the convocation ceremony went back to her office which bore signs of vandalism.

Protesting students said they do not have any issues with her leaving the campus if she feels unwell. But they refused to budge from the demand for her resignation.

Earlier in the day, the vice chancellor was advised hospitalisation by doctors who said she was stressed and anxious.

Trouble started on Friday during the chief minister's visit when a section of students greeted her with black flags and shouted slogans demanding action against those behind the vandalising of the heritage Baker Laboratory of the university in 2013.

"We have been protesting peacefully but the policemen accompanying the chief minister assaulted us for no reason. Despite our repeated pleas, the VC has refused to take any action. She has failed the institution and the students, so we are demanding her resignation," said an agitating student.

Meanwhile, another section of students opposed the demand for Lohia's resignation claiming only a "minority" of students want her to go.

"She has done a lot for this institution, the students and the faculty respect her. We don't want her to go. In fact, only a handful of students are demanding her resignation," said a student opposing the agitation.

During the day, the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad -- the students' wing of the ruling Trinamool Congress -- took out a rally in the city denouncing the Presidency agitation.

Meanwhile, opposition parties slammed the Trinamool for interfering in in Bengal.

State Congress president Adir Chowdhury said: "Whatever is happening is not an isolated case but there is anarchy in the sector and it is all due to Trinamool. The way it is infesting violence in campus, the day is not far away when actual goons will take over student politics."

Leader of Opposition and CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra tweeted: "Strongly condemning d brutal police lathicharge on protesting students of Presidency. Unite & fight against this anti democratic gov."

First Published: Sat, August 22 2015. 20:18 IST