GUWAHATI: Chants of “We want justice” echoed through Gymkhana Park in Silchar on Monday as students from the National Institute of Technology (NIT) staged a hunger strike, demanding accountability from the institute’s Dean and administration in the wake of a fellow student’s tragic demise.
From early morning, students from all the departments of the institute gathered at the park and continued sloganeering against the NIT administration. The hunger strike had been called by the Gymkhana Students’ Union Body (GSUB), the students’ union of the institute.
Earlier on Sunday, the union in a memorandum addressed to the Director of NIT Silchar, had threatened to initiate a hunger strike if their demands went unanswered. The students’ union had tendered their resignations on Sunday after their appeal for the establishment of a high-level committee to usher in academic reforms following the student’s death was not met.
The chain of events began on September 15 when the lifeless body of Koj Buker, a third-year electrical engineering student hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, was discovered in his Hostel-7 room. The student reportedly took his own life due to alleged academic setbacks, including failed exams and a mounting backlog of coursework. However, allegations emerged that Buker’s tragic decision was spurred by the institute’s Dean, BK Roy, who purportedly denied him the opportunity to sit for exams and subjected him to humiliation before his peers.
The discovery of Buker’s body on Friday ignited a wave of protests and outrage among the students. This escalated to the extent that police had to resort to lathi-charge to bring the situation under control. Approximately, 40 students sustained injuries and were taken to Silchar Medical College for treatment.
Cachar’s district commissioner, Rohan Kumar Jha, along with other officials, visited NIT Silchar on the same night and had cautioned that if violence persisted, temporary closure of the institute might be necessary.
Police reports reveal that agitated students resorted to vandalism, targeting the residences of senior professors, and clashed with law enforcement officers. Cachar district Superintendent of Police, Numal Mahatta, was quoted by the press as saying, “They attacked the police and other officials too. At one point, we had to lathi-charge to control the situation, and we are now investigating the matter further.”
On Sunday, another significant development unfolded as a group of students from NIT Silchar voluntarily visited the residence of Cachar Superintendent of Police, Numal Mahatta, to tender their unconditional apology for their involvement in the preceding day’s protests. Superintendent Mahatta acknowledged their apology but underscored that violence and breaches of law and order could not be tolerated.
Assam Police’s Director General, GP Singh, has also offered his perspective on the incident on a popular micro-blogging website, expressing understanding for protests related to emotive issues while condemning violence and vandalism.