A student stands on broken glasses of the door panels of Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya after violence on the campus on Wednesday. Picture by Sanjib Mukherjee
Bhubaneswar, Aug. 7: Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya students demanding suspension of a guest faculty allegedly misbehaved with the principal, kept teachers locked for over four hours and ransacked the college building here today.
Today’s protest began with students accusing visiting faculty member of stagecraft Lalatendu Panigrahi of harassing them. They alleged that when they went to principal Tamasarani Dasmohapatra to report the matter, she did not pay any heed to their complaint.
However, the students refused to disclose the nature of harassment that Panigrahi had meted out to them.
“On Saturday, we went to meet officials of the culture department, but instead of hearing our grievances, they forced us to return. Today when we met the principal, she misbehaved with us and threatened to fail us in the examinations,” said Damayanti Swain an agitator.
Principal Tamasarani Dasmohapatra, however, rebuffed the allegations. “On Monday, some students suddenly demanded suspension of Panigrahi. I have served a show cause notice to the faculty concerned. I even assured the students to facilitate a meeting with higher officials on Monday. But some students turned violent and ransacked the institute building today,” she said.
However, one of the protesters Rakesh Parida charged the principal with physically and mentally harassing the students. “Whenever we meet her to convey our demands, she never listens,” Parida said.
Angry students locked the office entrance gate and did not allow faculty members to come out for more than four hours. The students broke all windowpanes of the institute as they went on the rampage. The agitators also locked the main entrance for several hours and did not allow police and culture department officials to enter the campus.
Two faculty members got caught in the violence and sustained minor injuries. Assistant lecturer Pradeep Kumar Das, who sustained head injuries, was rushed to the nearest hospital.
The agitation ended after seven hours with culture department officials assuring the students to hold a meeting on Monday to resolve the issue.
The institute set up under the Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1964 has witnessed a number of protests in recent times. The students had sat on an indefinite strike outside the Assembly in December last year to demand creation of art teacher posts in all state-run schools.
The institute is now facing acute shortage of staff. Sources in the institute said that of the 23 posts for permanent lecturers, 18 were lying vacant. Similarly, five of the 12 posts for assistant lecturers are also lying vacant.
The institute has around 450 students in 12 disciplines.