A tribal student body locked Ranchi College, forced suspension of classes and stopped around 300 students from performing at a a pre-Sarhul celebration at the governor’s house on Monday in protest against the rechristening of the college as Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee University.
The students alleged that naming the college after Mukherjee was an effort by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to saffronise the education system in Jharkhand.
Mukherjee was the founder of BJP and an ex-minister in Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet. He had quit the Indian National Congress and founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which later became BJP.
On Monday, over a hundred members of Adivasi Chhatra Sangh (ACS), a tribal student body, locked the main gate of the college and burnt the effigy of chief minister Raghubar Das amid anti-BJP slogans reverberating at Morhabadi locality of the Jharkhand capital.
“We want the university to be named after a local academician, or freedom fighter. The government has paid no heed to our demands and named the university after a right wing leader. Why should we allow our students to perform at the governor’s house for Sarhul?” said Akash Kacchap, vice president of the Ranchi College student council.
Sarhul is one of the largest tribal festivals celebrated across Jharkhand and parts of Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Bengal.
Kacchap added that the entire tribal student community stood united against the “diktat” of the government.
Founded in 1926, Ranchi College received autonomous status from the University Grants Commission (UGC) on January 9, 2009. The Jharkhand cabinet in October 2015 decided to accord university status to Ranchi College, which currently imparts education to at least 4000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. It is the first college in Jharkhand to get state university status.
However, several student bodies have been up in arms against the government since it proposed to name the university after Mukherjee. Several protest marches and signature campaigns by student unions followed soon after the recommendation was made about a month ago.
Jharkhand Chhatra Morcha (JCM), the student wing of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, had recommended renaming the college as Param Veer Albert Ekka University. Ekka, a son of the soil, was martyred in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Ranchi also has a famous square named after him.
The All India Students’ Federation (AISF) has joined hands with the JCM to protest the alleged efforts to saffronise education here. All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) too has expressed discontentment over the government’s decision.