Who is nurturing violence in Nepal’s public campuses?

Acts of violence against teachers in Nepal’s public campuses continue unabated despite student unions’ assurances to control them.

The students also often vandalize campus properties. The trend seems to be on the rise of late, with no sign that it will stop immediately. (File photo/RSS)

Prasun Sangroula

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu:  An exam hall is supposed to have a silent atmosphere, where students concentrate on their question paper and answer sheets, with the invigilator making sure that nothing is wrong and no one is cheating. But on Tuesday this past week, the exam hall of Kathmandu-based Ratna Rajya Laxmi Campus witnessed something unusual. Chaos descended on the atmosphere when one student, Kuber Jethara, attacked a teacher, Ram Kumar Pudasaini, for “not allowing him to cheat”.

The teacher got seriously injured. He had to have seven stitches in his head. It was learned later that the student who attacked the teacher was associated with the All Nepal National Student Union (ANNFSU), the student wing of CPN (UML). Protesting the incident, the lecturers at the campus staged a pen-down. On Thursday, after the campus decided to rusticate Jethara, teachers called off the protest.

This is not the first time that students associated with a political party have attacked teachers in Nepal, especially in public campuses. The students also often vandalize campus properties. The trend seems to be on the rise of late, with no sign that it will stop immediately.

In October last year, Assistant Professor of Tribhuvan University, Prem Chalaune, was assaulted by students associated with Nepal Students Union, the student wing of Nepali Congress, in the varsity’s premises. He was critically injured. His right leg was fractured and he sustained deep cuts on his head and left leg. Reportedly, those attackers did not face any action from the concerned bodies—they had political power behind them.  

Pudasaini and Chalaune are just representational figures. Many other teachers like them have faced violence from the students.

Students unions or leaders are supposed to fight for the students’ rights and address their demands. But the recent incidents of violence by student leaders have posed questions on their stated duties and responsibilities.

Student unions associated with various political parties, however, maintain that they will not accept or endorse any kind of violence from students. They urge the concerned bodies to take action against every student who resorts to violence.

Students unions or leaders are supposed to fight for the students’ rights and address their demands. But the recent incidents of violence by student leaders have posed questions on their stated duties and responsibilities.

“Any incident of violence against teachers and campus is unacceptable to us,” said Ashok Thapa, deputy secretary-general of All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU), the student wing of CPN (Unified Socialist). “The students involved in such kind of violence must be punished by the student union and campus administration regardless of their political background. If they are not punished, they are likely to repeat similar activities.”

Other student leaders from different student unions also echoed Thapa. They said they condemn cases that are similar to Pudasaini and Chalaune.

Sanjib Dhakal, president of RR Campus branch of the Nepal Student Union, said that violence often erupts in campuses because of politicization of teachers, too.

“Many teachers harbor biases against students following a different ideological or party line than them,” he said. “Even the campus chief tends to be affiliated with a political party. And they try to save and support students having similar political backgrounds.”

Sunita Baral, chairperson of All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU), the student wing of CPN (UML), said that student leaders are often “forcefully dragged into violent acts.”

“Students who are not associated with any student union also resort to violent activities,” she said. “Students involved in violent activities are forcefully linked to student unions, although they do not have any political backgrounds, to damage the reputation of political parties.”

She added, “To stop any kind of violent acts in the campus, student unions must take an effective lead. They should not play down those acts of violence or safeguard students involved in violence.”