File photo of Geyzing college students protesting
Credit: Pankaj Dhungel

Gangtok: Students of Geyzing Government College have been detained by Sikkim Police for organising a sit-in Dharna outside the Education Department building on Friday night.

The students had been staging a protest since February 2 outside the Education Department building at Tashiling Secretariat in Gangtok, with the demand for swift completion of their college construction in Geyzing, West Sikkim.

Almost 20 students in uniform had camped at Janta Bhawan since February 1. During the day, they would protest at the Education Department and then return to the Janta Bhawan every night for rest.

But on Friday, four days after they had placed their demand, the students decided to camp at the Education Department.

Earlier in the day, the students had blocked the exit of Education Principal Secretary GP Upadhayay, which resulted in a push and shove between students and authorities.

The students have been demanding an audience with the State’s Education Minister Kunga Nima Lepcha. However, the students have been unable to meet him.

They claim their grievances are falling on deaf ears, as the concerned Department’s Principal Secretary and Additional Chief Secretary GP Upadhyaya has been placing the excuse of ‘COVID-19’ for hampering the progress of Geyzing College’s construction.

Earlier on Friday, the students had blocked the exit of Education Principal Secretary GP Upadhayay, which resulted in a push and shove between students and authorities

This is not the first occasion when they have staged a protest. In March 2020, they staged a similar dharna at their college premises in Geyzing. It drew the attention of Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay, who invited the students to Samman Bhawan in Gangtok from Geyzing to reach an amicable solution.

In March last year, the Chief Minister of state had given a written assurance to students in the presence of several other ministers, MLAs, brass level bureaucrats of the Department, and the powerful political leaders of the party with slews of promises. The construction project has been going on for 11 years now, even though it was supposed to be completed by 2015.

Many batches of students have come and gone, all of whom have staged a protest demanding the early completion of the college for humanities along with adequate infrastructure, but despite the Chief minister’s written assurance, nothing has happened in this one year on the pretext of COVID-19 pandemic hampering the progress.

“Every other government business and construction are underway in the State since September when the lockdown was relaxed. But not in Geyzing government college, as Principal Secretary Upadhaya has no other excuse other than COVID-19,” stated Pravin Upreti, a student representative of the college.

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Highlighting the assurance of the Chief Minister in March 2020, the following promises were made:

1. All the ongoing construction shall be completed in three months.

2. New DPR for the Academia Block, boys hostel shall be completed in three months and obtain approval and sanction from the Govt within three months. Road carpeting(65mm), fencing, and fulfilment of the required number of desks and benches shall also be completed within three months. If additional funds are required, they shall be made available from the CM Relief fund.

3. Science and Commerce Dept. shall also be started from the year 2021.

Despite the college students reminding department officials and engineering cell several times, none of the written assurances has been fulfilled even after almost a year now.

Unfortunately, the minister has not made himself available for the meeting with the students.

Students also claim that The Sikkim Police has been harassing the students time and again telling them to return to college.

“The Govt has failed in its own written assurance of fulfilling the demands even after almost a year or the students who are forced to study in congested rooms with shortages of furniture, teachers,” questions one of the students

“The Govt has failed in its written assurance of fulfilling the demands even after almost a year. The students are studying in cramped rooms with shortages of furniture, teachers. Who is on the wrong side: students asking for a basic campus or Government which failed to arrange even a meeting with the minister?”, asked the students.

Government College, Geyzing, has been without a proper campus since 2010. The college has slews of issues ranging from the no proper campus, sufficient teachers, hostel facilities, departments, administrators to bad roads.

Almost 18 male students from Geyzing government college were detained by Sikkim Police late Friday night.

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At around 11 pm on Friday, the male students were taken away by the Police. About ten female students had left the premises around 9 pm. The male students were taken to different police stations in Sikkim. Some were taken as far as their native Geyzing, some 100 km away from Gangtok.

Two students, who are members of the students’ representative council, have been detained at Sadar Police Station in Gangtok. Students in Geyzing were dropped in the middle of the town at night to fend for themselves.

It also appears that the Education Department has filed an FIR against the students for illegally camping at a government office building.

Neither the Education Department nor the Sikkim Police has issued any statement on the arrest of students yet.

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