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Embarrassed Panjab University to probe US-based NGO

Chandigarh, March 4 (IANS) Finding itself in hot water after 25 of its students managed to go on an educational trip to the US by showing bogus papers, Panjab University is now planning to verify the credentials of the American NGO that organised the conference. The issue came to light after one student was arrested on molestation charges while in Boston.

Nitin Jindal, 22, a student of the University Institute of Law Studies (UILS), went to the US to participate in the 56th session of Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN), held in Boston during Feb 11-14.

The conference was organised by an NGO, Harvard International Relations Council (HIRC), which claims links with Harvard University in Boston. Jindal was arrested Feb 14 following a complaint of molestation by a Boston resident. He is out on a $2,500 bail now.

Following this incident, Panjab University Vice-Chancellor R.C. Sobti constituted a committee to look into the matter. They were stunned when HIRC told them last week that two Panjab University teams — one from UILS and the other from the University School of Law — had participated in the conference. However, no department with the name of University School of Law exists in Panjab University.

This year UILS had officially sent 21 students to participate in the HNMUN event but the arrested student was among 25 others who had applied online in their individual capacity.

Now the committee members have decided to verify the credentials of HIRC before deciding their further course of action.

‘The HIRC claims affiliation and close links with Harvard University. Therefore, the Dean University Instructions of this university will contact the officials concerned of Harvard University and check the past records and details of HIRC,’ a committee member told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He added: ‘It is quite dubious on the part of HIRC to allow so many students from the same university to participate in a conference and that too without scrutinising the authenticity of documents submitted by them. Depending on the circumstances a delegation from Panjab University can also go there to bring out the truth.’

There were reports that students applying in their individual capacity had used letter-heads of a fake department and submitted clearance letters obtained from Panjab University through unscrupulous means.

Dean Students’ Welfare Naval Kishore told IANS: ‘We are looking into this matter. Strict action will be taken against all guilty, including any senior official found involved in this glitch, either directly or indirectly. Verification of the NGO is also necessary.’

So far, Panjab University has identified 18 students who had participated in this conference on their own, and issued them show-cause notice.

Jindal’s passport and visa documents were confiscated by the Boston police and he has been directed not to leave the US till April 6, when the next hearing of the case is slated. He hails from Bathinda town in Punjab and is currently staying with his cousin in Boston.

The university committee that is probing the matter has for the time being stopped all foreign trips of Panjab University law department students.

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at alkesh.s@ians.in)

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