Student politics has been an integral part of the Bengali culture since the days of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Young men like Khudiram, Binoy, Badal and Dinesh gave their lives for the country even before crossing the threshold of 25. Bengal has bled in the 1970s when innocent college students were infamously packed off in encounter killings. “Lorailorailorai chai” is the slogan of the college-activists, “bhengedao, gunriyedao” their motto.
Jadavpur University and Presidency College (now university) have always stood out from the rest in being elitest of all institutes. Getting admission here is not easy and the brightest of minds have walked down these hallowed portals over time. Students here are more equal than the rest of Bengal. But does that mean they are immune from the vices that exist elsewhere? No.
What happened on the night of September 16 was shameful. As an individual and as a human being I would be at a loss of words to describe my angst. But you cannot clap with one hand alone. For every reaction, there is always an action. We know what police is capable of; we have not forgotten 2005. Neither have we forgotten 1971 when students murdered the Vice Chancellor of JU on campus. The debate on the trigger for the action-reaction series can go on and on without ever reaching any conclusion and let us avoid that.
But I refuse to believe only one side of the story. As ruthless and merciless the police force may be, to believe that they arrived on the campus at the dead of the night and attacked a herd of sheep like a pack of hounds would be a grave injustice to reality. I am not saying the students are lying. Neither am I saying the police are messengers of peace. The truth lies somewhere in the middle-ground.
The students produced a video of “police torture”; the cops did too. Some students alleged “outsider goons” of ruling party were present there too (pray, do ruling party cadre wear t-shirts proclaiming their political affinities?). The police alleged several students from other institutes (and known Naxal sympathisers) were in the crowd – which most of these students accepted, as published in a popular Bengali daily. But should we allow the narrative to be stuck with this war of words?
Our attention has successfully been diverted from the main issue – the molestation of a girl on the campus and the demand for justice for her. I am surprised that in the last 3 days I have hardly seen any discussion about her. The students met the Governor of West Bengal today with the demand for VC’s resignation. Is that all?
The victim was allegedly beaten up inside JU hostel by a group of boys, molested and forced to drink alcohol. No one is speaking for her plight. The incident happened on August 26 and till September 8 not one union spoke up (so as not to disturb the status quo in hostels). An internal complaints committee was set up by the VC after media uproar on the incident. Meanwhile the girl filed a FIR with the police.
Surely the FIR named students. The victim identified one of the accused. Why has not a single union, fighting for democracy on the streets of Kolkata, demanded their arrest yet? The students want a fresh probe panel for a “fair probe”; are they afraid one of their own will be exposed?
The JU campus is already muddled in controversies. All that both sides can do is extend a hand of support to the victim. What pricks my heart is the hunch that may be those who violated the girl, walked in Saturday’s Mahamichil against Vice-Chancellor Abhijeet Chakraborty.
I woke up today to a deluge of posts by people extending their “solidarity” to students of Jadavpur University who were manhandled by the Kolkata Police last night. The “students” in question had gheraoed the Vice Chancellor of the University “peacefully” from noon till 3 AM at night. As per reports of some news channels, the Vice Chancellor was physically assaulted by few students, after which fearing for his life, he had to call the police.
What amused me the most is the fact that these “rebellious” students were relaying the “state sponsored brutality “live” through FB and Twitter. Delhi-based media, which these days treats FB posts as Gospel truth jumped into the fray and launched into an attack on the WB Govt (no lessons learnt from attack on NE students in Bangalore and Assam riots). Amusing how your comrades are “being molested” by “goons” and you find time to update your FB status!
The students were carrying out “peaceful protests” not for justice for the victim of molestation of a JU student, but to shield the perpetrators (reason attributed to hostel politics). Student politics of JU is known all the world over; JU has given rise to Naxalites in the past. Only three years ago Debalina (who worked closely with Kishenji) was arrested from campus. Known Naxal sympathisers like Jishnu-da have often held meetings on the campus under the banner of USDF/AISA and other organisations. But that’s besides the point.
I have a few pertinent questions for those who are the flag bearers of hashtag activism today:
- When student organisations of ruling parties (be it in Bengal or anywhere else) submit something as trivial as deputations to VC’s in universities, media is quick to brand it as “gherao”. But actually locking up faculty members from noon till late night is “peaceful protest”? Even the first report of the agitation appeared in the media at 7 PM….
- VC’s are in-charge of law and order within the campus. If police can be deployed in other universities, why can they not be brought to JU, specially after the dignity of women is under attack from other students!!!
- Media and FB “activists” are agog about “outsiders who attacked students. What about the presence of Asim “Kaka” Chatterjee and his bunch of followers at protest site? What were students of other institutes doing there?
- All students who were detained by police to clear the gherao have been released. Sadly, a few students are hopspitalised. But has the media even uttered a word on faculty members who are hospitalised after being locked up for hours by students?
- Those who are shouting their lungs out on FB (notice the sarcasm here) in solidarity with students, why didn’t the students protest after the molestation that happened way back in the last week of August? Why did the students not demand the arrest of the perpetrators of the molestation (even after an FIR by the victim?)
- Is the core issue still the molestation of the girl or is it now a battle of egos with the authorities?
P.S. – Obviously I know, people will tell me I have been “paid” to write this piece, that I am a “volunteer” of the government. Unlike them, I have not sold my conscience to fake hashtag activism to look cool on Twitter/FB.
LONG LIVE HASHTAG ACTIVISM