Ujjain, Aug. 28: It was a rare show of public grief. Life in the ancient temple town Ujjain came to a standstill today with the ruling BJP supporting the Congress call for a bandh to mourn the death of Professor H.S. Sabharwal in Madhav College during the students’ union polls on Saturday.
All shops, establishments, schools and colleges remained shut. Sabharwal’s post-mortem report confirmed that he had died due to internal injuries, broken ribs and syncope (loss of consciousness from shock).
Madhya Pradesh governor Balram Jakhar acted swiftly, asking for implementation of the J.M. Lyngdoh panel report that has called for a drastic clean-up of students’ union elections.
The committee was formed two months ago by the human resource development ministry on a directive from the Supreme Court. Its major recommendations are:
- Students older than 26 should not be allowed to contest elections
- Those studying to get a third degree irrespective of age should be barred
- Big political parties should be kept out of campuses
Jakhar is chancellor of all Madhya Pradesh universities and his tough stand can have a bearing on the manner in which students’ union polls are held across the state.
Expelled BJP leader Uma Bharti called for a “ban” on students’ union polls. She said that as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh she had enforced a “no election in colleges” code, but the BJP government this year took a wrong decision that led to the unfortunate incident.
The BJP-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad continued to claim that Sabharwal died of a heart attack. ABVP national secretary S.R. Sharma debunked the post-mortem report and cautioned the BJP regime against arresting ABVP activists. He accused the local administration of “trying to frame” the ABVP.
The police, too, remained cagey. While Ujjain police have arrested some students, it has not charged anyone with murder. Those arrested have been booked under sections dealing with cases of rioting.
The police FIR on Sabharwal’s death is based on an eyewitness account from Komal Singh, a peon of Madhav College. Yesterday, Komal was summoned to a local police station and complained of chest pain and uneasiness when he returned home at night.
Today, he had to be hospitalised. Congress MLA Prem Chand Guddu accused the police of intimidating and pressuring Komal.
Many college professors, who requested anonymity, alleged that Sabharwal was lynched in the presence of senior civil and police officers. They wondered how the police could attribute the delay in identifying the killers to lack of witnesses.
Hundreds of common citizens wore black armbands and carried black flags in near-empty streets. Traders did not have to be requested to keep shutters down. Despite the Ganesh festival shopping season, they voluntarily opted to close shops.
The district administration had declared a holiday for educational institutions. Public transport remained off the roads.