Police turn off lights in the dark of the night to assault students; girl students trampled under cops’ boots; VC accuses students of committing excesses.
Kolkata — Jadavpur University witnessed an unprecedented standoff today. Vice Chancellor Abhijit Chakraborty had to call the police to the campus to set himself free of students’ cordon. At the root of the impasse is a demand by students of an independent investigation into the recent incident of molestation of a girl student inside the campus on 28 August.
As police lathi-charged the protesters, 33 people were injured in the ensuing commotion. The police had entered the campus equipped with sticks and tear gas and the baton-charge began unprovoked, allege the students.
Between last midnight and 6 pm this evening, Kolkata police repeatedly barged into the university campus, switched off all lights and began hitting the protesters with batons. Female students complain the police trampled them under the boots; many of the students had to be taken to a hospital for immediate treatment.
Journalists who could make it to the campus witnessed outsiders — neither students, nor teachers, nor staff — helping the police to carry out the mayhem. Some students said they were workers of the Trinamool Congress, the ruling party in West Bengal. The accusation has been denied by Shankudeb Panda, leader of the party’s student union, the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad.
|Far away in the Burdwan district, Subir Kumar Mandal, principal of Keugudi High School in Ketugram, moved around with a placard hung from the neck with slogans against the police action. He followed the news of the incident in the morning and decided to protest in his own way. He left home right after watching TV and was still roaming the streets of the town of Katoa at 2 pm.|
The university campus witnessed violence the whole of last night. At daybreak, many students emerged from the campus and blocked the main road in front of the institution. They said they would boycott classes if the authority did not pay heed to their demand of justice.
At noon, the vice-chancellor reported sick amid the gherao. Chakraborty was taken to a private hospital in Salt Lake for a check-up. A few other professors reported ill, too. The vice-chancellor said that it was unfair on the part of the students to protest when the inquiry into the incident of assault on a girl student was still on. He said he had reported about the standoff to West Bengal Education Minister Partha Chatterjee.
Chakraborty said they were students who had come along with outsiders to cordon him off. He alleged the protesters would have killed him if police had not intervened in time.
The vice chancellor has taken a 5-day leave. The situation can be described as an imbroglio, with neither side ready to blink first.
At about 1 pm, police in civil uniform re-entered the campus to carry out another round of lathi-charge.
At about 3 pm, the SFI blocked the road along the Jadavpur 8 B route bus stand.
At about 5 pm, students of the Jadavpur University staged a rally to protest the incident of late-night violence by the police and outsiders. University professors joined the procession.
Eminent members of civil society demonstrated along with the group. The procession began from the university courtyard and went up to Gol Park and came back to the university. As of now, it seems the students will settle for nothing less than the vice-chancellor’s resignation.
Four leftist student unions including the Students’ Federation of India have called a students’ strike to protest the police action tomorrow.
Educationist Amal Mukherjee condemned the incident of police assault. It was unethical on the part of the vice-chancellor to call police to the campus, he said. However, he did not condone the action of students either.
MP Ritabrata Banerjee described the last night’s incident as an assault by the Trinamool Congress’s “henchmen”.
“Such police atrocity is reprehensible. If this vice-chancellor stays, it will further dent the image of the Trinamool government,” theatre personality Kaushik Sen said while participating in the student demonstrations.
CPI(M) leader Surya Kant Mishra said the vice-chancellor had no right to stick to his post. He alleged that the State government, the ruling party, the police and the vice-chancellor conspired together to launch the attack on the students. “Why would the police need to assault students in the dark of the night?” the Leader of the Opposition questioned.
Indian National Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya condemned the attack on students. He said such an incident of brutal assault on students was unprecedented in the history of West Bengal.
BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh, in-charge of his party’s West Bengal unit, demanded a court-monitored inquiry into the incident. He said negotiation was the only way out of the university management-student logjam.
State Urban development Minister Firhad Hakim said the police should have exercised restraint.