Ahead of student polls, war zone at Panjab University

Last Updated: Thu, Sep 01, 2011 08:40 hrs

Chandigarh, Sep 1 (IANS) A bulletproof armoured vehicle and commandos with automatic weapons, 600 security personnel and sealed gates, post-midnight raids on hostels and over 100 closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs)... this is not a riot zone but the scene at the Panjab University (PU) where student elections are being held Friday.

Ahead of elections to the Panjab University Central Students Council (PUCSC), the 533 acre campus is nothing less than a battlefield with university authorities and Chandigarh Police unwilling to take chances with the law and order situation.

Given the bloody trail of clashes between students organisations, groups and leaders in recent years, the election for office bearers of PUCSC and departmental representatives are taking place under the strict eye of the law.

Two of three gates into the university have been sealed till the election process is over.

'The security this time for the elections is much tighter as we do not want to take any chances. We have installed over 100 CCTV cameras. Nearly 600 security personnel are on duty,' PU security head P.K. Dhawan told IANS.

Last week, police and PU officials knocked at the doors of hostellers, especially the boys hostels, at midnight or early in the day and rounded up nearly 100 youngsters staying their illegally.

'We have given a list of 120 notorious students to PU authorities whose activities need to be watched,' Sector 11 station house officer (SHO) Gurmukh Singh told IANS.

Police booked 35 student leaders in 2011 following clashes. In the last five years, more than 100 leaders have been detained for violence.

The main active groups on the campus include the PU Students Union (PUSU), Students Organization of PU (SOPU), Indian National Students Organization (INSO) and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

Entry to the campus, the main one located in Sector 14, has been restricted. Every vehicle is checked and the young have to show their identity and explain the purpose of visit.

Student leaders are livid.

'This security is unwarranted. The authorities have put unnecessary restrictions on campaigning. The election has been robbed of the colourful atmosphere,' SOPU leader Robin Brar said.

PU officials defend the restrictions.

'This year, the campaigning has been peaceful so far because of the security,' dean for students welfare Amrik Singh Ahluwalia said.

Not everyone agrees.

'This kind of security is not required. The authorities should understand that besides the students, hundreds of other residents, including teachers and other staff, live on the campus. They get harassed unnecessarily,' PU Teachers Association (PUTA) president Akshay Kumar said.

Of the over 13,420 voters on the campus, 70 percent are young women.

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