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Everyone has the right to protest in a democracy. There are instances of even chief ministers hitting the road. Government employees are often seen protesting over pay issues. While some raise their voice against delay or non-payment of salary, others demand hike in pay besides other facilities. Senior officials are less seen in the company of such protesters. They are supposed to be the policy makers of the government. Many a time the key to the solution of protesters lies with them. Besides, people in some professions too exercise restraint in resorting to open protests. Doctors, journalists, lawyers and teachers are among them (Of course, please excuse those teachers working without or little salary for years). But, time is changing. Even these professionals – whether in government or not – resort to the streets for monetary demands. The protests in the North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), a Central institution supposed to be a hub of excellence, located in Shillong has grabbed media headlines for these issues.

A section of the NEHU teachers recently held a protest rally against ‘illegal’ appointment of a vice-chancellor (VC). The acting VC P Shukla while going on leave appointed AN Rai, a former VC of NEHU, as the VC in-charge. Rai had faced severe opposition from the teachers’ association while being appointed the VC of the university in 2013. That episode lasted for a couple of weeks then. Just a few days before the protest against appointment of Prof AN Rai, the NEHU teachers stalled the university demanding constitution of seventh pay commission and other demands. The association held to ransom the university for several days over ‘hill state special allowance’. Besides, there used to be protests by students on various matters right from appointment issues to molestation allegations. Such kind of disruptions has become the order of the day in the Central university. Undeniably and undoubtedly, all these disruptions hamper the very objective of an institution of higher education.

If NEHU is on newspaper headlines, chances are that it may not be for good reasons. Its academic achievements are either below par or not given due publicity. It is hard to recollect when the NEHU drew limelight for academic excellence except for faculty members being awarded PhD degrees. According to a web survey, the university is ranked 105 among Indian universities, well ahead of Tezpur University (149), Gauhati University (144), Assam University, Silchar (155), Tripura University (162) and Dibrugarh University (195). The region is by IIT Guwahati (16) and NIT Silchar (22) in the list. The day is not be far when NEHU will nosedive in its rankings, if such disruptions, mostly fueled by internal politics, sustain longer.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on August 14, 2015)

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