When authorities at Chandigarh University in Punjab’s Mohali announced an unscheduled week-long academic break, it seemed clear that its founder Satnam Singh Sandhu was staring at one of the biggest challenges to the operation of his “educational kingdom” built up over a decade.
One of the largest private universities in Punjab, the varsity is now in the eye of the storm over the allegations that objectionable videos of several women students had been recorded. The institution maintains that student protests were triggered by “rumours”, but much like the sprawling 100-acres campus, Sandhu too finds himself under media glare.
On Linkedin, Sandhu calls himself “an edupreneur who has been recognised for his visionary educational policies by policymakers at various levels”. But the creation of an academic empire in over a decade has also led to his name being affiliated with various political parties and his clout in political corridors ranging from Akalis to the Congress.
A staunch follower of Gurcharan Singh Tohra, the then head of the SGPC, Sandhu has had affiliation with different political hues. In 2002, he became part of the Chandigarh Group of Colleges, owned by his long-time associate Rashpal Singh Dhaliwal. But Sandhu didn’t stop at that and created the Chandigarh University in 2012.
His political affiliations helped him realise the dream of a major private university. Considered very close to the Akali Dal leadership, those who have witnessed his rise claim it’s that proximity that helped him set up the varsity. Owning a large land bank in proximity to Mohali and Chandigarh made the task easier.
But given his propensity to tag along with the governments of the day and not rub anyone the wrong way, Sandhu, over the years, has maintained relationships with people across Punjab’s political spectrum. So it did not come as a surprise to many when newly elected AAP Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann was invited to inaugurate the first drone hub set up at Chandigarh University.
Prior to this, the university played host to Punjab Youth Fest where then state education minister Charanjit Singh Channi, who went on to become CM, visited the campus.
Sandhu found his university’s mention even in Prime Minister’s Mann ki Baat address for having created the largest human chain depicting the national flag.
Sandhu’s proximity to those in power was also reflected when he led a delegation of prominent Punjabis and NRI Sikhs to meet the Prime Minister during the Sadhbhavna programme in Delhi. Several Union ministers have visited the university to inaugurate several centres.
Sandhu claims an array of achievements to his credit – from the youngest university to have been accredited with NAAC-A to performing well in National Institutional Rankings Framework (NIRF) released by the Union Education Ministry.
Having successfully manoeuvred Punjab’s political twists and turns, Sandhu now finds himself contending with searing anger from his own student fraternity.
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