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On the event of the 60th anniversary celebration at the Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur (IIT-Kgp) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivered an address the befit the occasion. He spoke in glowing terms about the achievements and outlined the challenges that lie ahead for the oldest IIT in the country.
His rhetoric, however remained devoid of political statements about the protests that have racked the country for the past 10 days-protests which reached the gates of institution he came to address.
Sashi Shekhar Singh, who was to receive his Masters in Technology (M.Tech) sat barely 500 metres from the gates of IIT-Kgp, in a solitary makeshift camp with garlanded posters of Anna Hazare decorating his road side protest.
“I am protesting corruption in the system. I am not against IIT-Kgp, or the administration. I do however protest the high handedness of this government. I refuse to attend a ceremony where the chief guest is the head of the government I am protesting against,” Shekhar Singh told Business Standard.
The camp, which adjoins a garage was filled with about 8-9 protestors who were clued into a television set broadcasting images of the protests at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi. Besides the posters the camp was adorned a multitude of the Indian tricolours, and about a dozen chairs.
Besides Shekhar Singh, another student, Ritesh Singh, squatting on the floor of the camp was also the cynosure of the protest.
Singh is a third year student of Bachelors in Technology (B.Tech), the flagship undergraduate programme offered by IIT-KGP. Ritesh Singh has been on a fast for the past seven days. He started his fast in tandem with that of the 74 year old Anna Hazare in Delhi.
“The motto of our movement is to remain peaceful, while getting our protest against corruption across. We are confident of the fact that a strong corruption monitoring body like the Lokpal will get rid of the many ills that ail this country,” Ritesh, dresses in a dhoti and Gandhi cap, said.
Students, who had earlier threatened to wear Gandhi caps to the ceremony, however were not to be spotted. Security at the gates informed no such attempts had been made.
The Anna Hazare protest movement has arrested the imagination of country since 15th August, which incidentally, was the country’s 63rd Independence Day. At the crux of the movement is the demand of “team Anna” to get the Jan Lok Pal Bill passed.
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre, on the other hand, has remained adamant that their version of the Lokpal Bill is the only constitutional one, pleading the supremacy of the Parliament.
Protests, although not as manifest took place within the campus as well. A multitude of students wore black, but most were at loath to openly raise slogans, partly due to the strong security present at the campus. On an average 6 policemen were stationed at every 100 metres.
“We are wearing black to protest what this government is doing. We support Anna Hazare. It is our belief that in anticipation of the Prime Minister’s visit the institute has spent over Rs 20 crore in preparation. The expenditure, we believe is a complete waste,” said a second year student of Machine Drive and Engineering, at IIT-Kgp.
Anna Hazare’s second in command, Arvind Kejriwal is an alumna of IIT-Kgp. For all intents an purposes, his alma matter tried its best not to disappoint his current endeavors.