THE activists of Islami Jamiat-i-Tulaba (IJT) disrupted the inauguration of 'Punjab University Book and IT Fair' by the Vice-Chancellor Lt-Gen (retd) Arshad Mahmood here Wednesday with vociferous slogans of 'Jamiat Zindabad.' The PU administration had announced holding the three-day event on May 17 instead of 18th May as announced earlier, amidst reports that this had been done to avoid clash with IJT that had announced a separate Book Fair from 16th May.
The IJT had reportedly agreed not to display their insignia on the condition that their members would not be expelled from the varsity. However, all such reports fizzled out on Wednesday when the Vice-Chancellor was about to inaugurate the Fair as scheduled.
Just before the time of inauguration (7:30 pm), around 400-500 activists of IJT emerged from nowhere despite the fact that the police officials had cordoned off the campus and assembled in front of the main entrance of the Fair opposite Institute of Education and Research (IER).
They also started chanting slogans in their favour and against the varsity administration which put the Registrar and members of the Deans Committee in a state of quandary and they directed the police contingent deployed at Gate Number 1 to march in.
The police officials took position in the lawns in front of IER, but avoided direct confrontation with the IJT activists. The charged-up IJT members, comprising mostly outsiders also refused to budge from their position.
In the meanwhile, the VC arrived and cut the ribbon to inaugurate the fair, surrounded by the IJT members. They followed him in the corridor as he left from the other side of the corridor in haste without speaking or visiting the stalls.
He was scheduled to return to the main entrance, but did not turn up. The IJT activists kept chanting anti-VC slogans all along and also occupied the main reception arena at the entrance for the Book and IT fair.
After the VC left, all the hierarchy of the university, including the Registrar and most of the members of Deans Committee also left the premises. The police contingent also moved back to the gate while the university guards also remained at a distance from the mob.
This gave an opportunity to the unruly youngsters to vent their anger at the varsity administration and they wreaked havoc by invading the media centre as well. The Dean of Law, Dean of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Additional Registrar and a handful of teachers could not help, but to be silent spectators.
The attendance of visitors at the Fair was very thin in wake of the IJT-PU clash and most of the book-sellers had also not set up their stalls properly. A couple of them talking to The News expressed reservations over the security arrangements and termed it the incompetence of the varsity administration as it had failed to anticipate the situation.
They also expected thin attendance after the resumption of book fair on Thursday (today) as the general public would be wary of another clash between the IJT and varsity authorities. They regretted that a healthy activity had fallen victim to egoistic policies and ill-planning.
The Dean Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences Dr Mughees-ud-Din Sheikh, talking to newsmen at the Media Centre said that IJT had acted against its tradition and resorted to hooliganism and hooting the respectable teachers. He said that IJT had agreed to abide by the rules.
He said that the varsity administration would have taken a lenient view towards the IJT members, expelled from the varsity had they behaved properly. The matter, he said, would now be presented in the Deans Committee meeting on Thursday (today) and action would be taken against the culprits.
The convener of the Fair Coordination Committee and Dean of Law Dr Dil Muhammad Malik, however, denied that the date of the Fair was changed from 18th to 17th May because IJT had agreed to cooperate with the varsity administration.
When asked about the heavy gathering of IJT activists at the Fair, he said that any student, either a member of IJT or not could not be barred from accessing the area. When asked that most of them were outsiders and police failed to block their entry, he said that police were used as a preventive force rather than a deterrent.
On the other hand, the Nazim of PU IJT Salman Ayub, on the occasion put the blame for fiasco on the varsity Registrar Dr Naeem Khan and said that a healthy activity had been turned into an unwanted clash with the students.
He also denied the allegation of the varsity that IJT had charged unauthorised money from the book-sellers and stressed that a nominal entry fee from every stall like every year had been charged this year as well.
He denied that IJT had given any assurance to the varsity authorities adding that they had decided against holding the fair on 16th because they did not want to create an untoward situation. Meanwhile, a PU press release said that the PU VC inaugurated the Book Fair with the members of Deans Committee while over 100 book-sellers and IT companies across the country arranged their stalls in the fair. However, it wrongly claimed that the VC had made a speech as well although he left without uttering a single word.
All the facilities for the stalls have been provided free-of-cost, it maintained adding that the books were available at almost half of the price for the students. The booksellers, however, complained to the Vice-Chancellor that the IJT activists had collected money from them without authority, which should be returned to them, it added.