Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Video Producer: Saradha Natarajan
On 19 February, four students of Sikkim Government College, Gyalshing were expelled for demanding proper infrastructure at the decade-old college campus. The students have been attempting to draw the concerned government department's attention for an academic block with classrooms. However, these requests have fallen on deaf years. This forced students to take to the streets in protest of the lack of government attention to educational institutions of the state.
Even after 11 years, only three buildings – a library, a girls’ hostel and a guest house –have been built. In March 2020, the chief minister of Sikkim had given a written assurance that the infrastructural development of the college would at least begin by June 2020, but that has not been the case.
While students understand that work may have gotten delayed due to the pandemic, this delay became unacceptable to us when there was no progress till December 2020, despite construction work resuming elsewhere by September 2020. We felt neglected and unheard once again. In the new year, once the coronavirus case-load decreased, students started to protest the government’s failure in this regard.
On 5 February, 18 students were detained when in Gangtok to meet the additional chief secretary of the Education Department. Soon after on 19 February, the college administration expelled the four students involved in the protest, stating that they had acted in violation of the rules and regulations of the college.
On 2 March, the expelled students – Pravin Upreti, Praveen Basnett, Nakul Sharma and Loknath Chettri – served a legal notice to the Principal of the college, the Chief Secretary of Sikkim, and the Additional Chief Secretary challenging the decision. (The Quint has accessed the legal notice).
We students believe that this expulsion cannot be called a disciplinary action. It is victimisation. The fellow students were protesting and were only raising their voice against bad infrastructure of the institution.
The four will not be allowed to appear for examinations starting 23 March; their admit cards read ‘not eligible’. The student body condemns this move.
The students were exhibiting their Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression guaranteed under Article 19(a) of the Indian Constitution. Shockingly, two of the expelled students were termed ‘anti-nationals’ by the spokesperson of ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha for protesting as well as displaying support for the ongoing farmers’ movement.
In a letter to the Principal of Sikkim Government College on 19 March, the Sikkim University Students’ Association has also questioned the constitutional validity of fellow students’ expulsion. They have asked for the students to be reinstated and the matter reexamined.
(Calls to Mr Kishor Kumar Rai, Principal of Sikkim Government College and Education Minister Kunga Nima Lepcha went unanswered. The Quint has reached out to the principal via email. The story will be updated if there is a response.)
(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)