Offline examinations for odd-semesters of undergraduate courses in Assam University have begun from Tuesday after authorities rejected protesting students’ demand for online examination in the wake of a rise in Covid-19 cases, said officials.

Students of about 15 colleges, affiliated to the varsity in the three districts of the Barak Valley, protested for three days till Monday evening, but the varsity and district authorities cited official guidelines to reject their demand following a late evening meeting at Cachar deputy commissioner’s office in Assam’s Silchar.

The students, who have been protesting against offline examinations since Saturday, blocked Cachar deputy commissioner’s office on Monday evening and were dispersed only after the police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel cited prohibitory orders under Section 144, imposed in the district on the eve of the third and final phase of assembly elections in the state, and threatened them with a lathicharge.

“Assam University is discriminating between campus students and students of affiliated colleges. Despite the threat of Covid-19, they are denying our demand. This is injustice. If a student gets infected during the examination and dies, will the university take responsibility?,” asked a student, who didn’t wish to be named.

Following the protest, the district administration called a meeting of Assam University officials, principals of colleges and representatives of students. The colleges unanimously supported the decision to conduct offline examinations.

“Assam University is not the competent authority to assess the Covid situation. It is the district administration or the state government’s job to issue an advisory, which guides our decision. When the Dibrugarh University is conducting offline examination, the election commission is conducting elections, a Mela is happening in Silchar, when everything is open, how can Assam University take a decision not to conduct offline examination? We are following the Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) issued by the ministry of home affairs, which instructs universities to open in a phase-wise manner,” said Pradosh Kiran Nath, Assam University registrar.

Additional deputy commissioner Dipak Jidung said, “We cannot influence the university’s decision unless it hampers the law and order situation in our district. The university authority asked us to give an advisory whether it is unsafe to conduct offline examination at this moment due to Covid. Though the number of Covid cases are increasing in the country, we don’t have any instructions from the state government to stop offline examinations.”

Presently, there are 16 active cases of Covid in Cachar district and the last death due the disease in the district was reported two weeks back.

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