Gangtok: A section of students from Nar Bahadur Bhandari Government College (NBBGC) had converged at a local hotel in Gangtok intending to hold an event marking the 8th anniversary of the infamous Student Movement of 2014. But even before the event could begin, another section of students from the college clashed with the organising student, saying the event had been ‘politicalised.’

The ensuing verbal clash among students ended with tearing down the event poster and the event not taking place. The guests at the event, one section of students claimed, were ‘student protesters from 2014’, while the opposing group termed them as members of Sikkim Progressive Youth Forum (SPYF), a socio-political outfit from Sikkim.

Undoubtedly, as seen by the media at the event, many members from SPYF were in attendance. While it was equally hard to differentiate who these former students from 2014 were in attendance at the event. Eventually, the guests had to leave, and so did the members of SPYF as the argument between two sets of students got heated.

According to the students organising the event, “We had assembled with the intent of celebrating the 9th year of a historic (student) movement which happened in 2014. The students were then lathi-charged and the movement happened to counter the fee hike. The struggle of the students to counter had resulted in the fees being lowered, and subsequently, the academic fee was made free. To this day, students are availing free education. Hence, we had assembled to celebrate the day, giving those former students respect, we had invited them.”

The students further informed among the 4000 plus college-going students they were unable to reach out to everyone. “Those we were able to reach, we had messaged them. But some of the students countered us that the event should have taken place either in the college, they doubted our intention. They tore down the banner for the event, which we condemn. We are not affiliated with any party. We are not politically sound. But due to a certain section of students, we are compelled to call off the event. It is saddening that we are neither associated with any political party, but as general students, we wanted to do the event.”

The opposing students had questioned the organising students as to where did they get funds to organise the event, to which the students justified, “From among those former students some have become lawyers and teachers, we had collected from them. As students, it is very tough for us to generate funds. It was a minimal contribution with no amenities that we could provide at the event. But only with the intent of organising and observing the anniversary event. The intention was to give them respect and to carry the same process for future generations. That was our only motive.”

The students further justified that holding the event was not a crime. “We feel that observing the event would not hamper the college’s reputation. It was merely to commemorate the movement but not a new movement on its own. It was not a protest rally, we were not defaming the college. We had invited all colleges, some came in regular attires and not the college uniform. This is being celebrated in Namchi College, Geyzing College, hence we wrote ‘all government college’. Hence, the banners were similar in different colleges. We also felt it was not necessary to inform the institutions’ heads as this event was happening at a commercial place. If it were movement, we may have sought permission but since it was not, we didn’t.”

When asked why the members of SPYF were involved, the students said: “The members that you saw today, they were actively participating in the college movement back in 2014. It was only them we had invited not everybody. We had invited lawyers and teachers too and they were with us. But once the students saw members of SPYF, they ended up politicalizing the event. We welcomed them as students part of the 2014 struggle and not members of SPYF. It was supposed to be apolitical.”

On only students from NBBGC joining the event at Gangtok, the students claimed, “We had invited students from Law College in Gangtok but they had other events happening today and tomorrow, they couldn’t join us.”

The opposing students, while speaking with the media, claimed that they did not know the background of the event. They stated, “We were invited with the intent of respecting our former students. But once we reached the event, we came to know how our friends from college were misleading us. They were trying to fire a gun from our shoulders. They were hearing with the intent of talking politics. There was no talk about tribute to former students. They claimed students from all government colleges but even among the organisers, there were only two students. We suggested to them that this event should happen in the college auditorium instead of a hotel. If it was a concern of funding we could have managed but after coming here we learned that the event was being funded by SPYF.”

The opposing students also claimed that the Students Representative Council (SRC) of the College, but even the SRC was not involved in the organising. They claimed that the event was the product of two students only. “Before the event, the students among us were talking about the event and that is when we learned that the event had the presence of SPYF members. The banner speaks of tribute to former students, but we question whether those worthy of tribute are only members of SPYF? Hence we feel that the event is 100 per cent organised by SPYF. We are not against SPYF, but we feel a tribute to former students must involve only students and no one else must be involved.”

The opposing students also claimed that they had no intention of organising a tribute event on the day. “We had a plan to organise in the College auditorium but due to the event coinciding with examinations the College administration didn’t permit us. We could have organised the event any other day as well if not today. This event is not taking place in any of the colleges be it in Burtuk or Namchi. Even most in NBBGC were unaware of the event. It’s a perspective of 4000 plus students, not something that should have been organised between three students. They are here justifying that the event is not organised by the college, but those invited are the students from Tadong Government College. When the students are here in College uniform then it is wrong.”

In the past, the day was also observed as Student Rights Day by the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha’s student wing which however didn’t happen this year, after observation for two years. The opposing students claimed, “We are not involved in that event. We have never tried to politicalise the event of the day. We are here to fight for student rights as students.”

On the allegation that a section of students tore down the banner, the students denied that they tore the banner. However, they claimed, “Perhaps the banner was torn by those students who felt misled and out of anger they may have torn down the banner. We here hear to support but we have felt misled here today”.

Also read: Sikkim MCX Scam: ED conducts searches in eight locations

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