West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, accompanied by a sizeable police force, had to rush to the Jadavpur University on Thursday, when students heckled Union minister Babul Supriyo, showing him black flags and refusing to let him leave the campus. Supriyo, who was on campus to address a seminar organised by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), was stopped from entering the gate.
The protests were being staged by students belonging to Students’ Federation of India (SFI), Left-leaning Arts Faculty Students’ Union (AFSU) and Faculty of Engineering and Technology Students’ Union (FETSU), All India Students' Association (AISA) and a few members of the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP), who thumped the bonnet of Dhankhar’s vehicle and relented only after teachers persuaded them to lift their blockade.
Meanwhile, stick-wielding ABVP members chanted 'Jai Shree Ram' and 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' as they vandalised the AFSU room within the campus, setting fire to furniture, computers and ceiling fans of the room, covering the signage outside it with black colour and painting ABVP on the wall inside.
While Supriyo told News18 that he was kicked, punched, his hair was pulled and there was no interference by the state administration, student Smiti Sinha said the ABVP roughed up a shopkeeper who was popular among the students.
Incidents of violence and unrest at the university were reported at the university from as far back as 2010, when engineering students waved black flags at then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Not one of the students wrote the examination — 957 students from the first year and 922 from the second year — scheduled for the next day in protest against the lathicharge against students on the day of the former chief minister’s visit.
However, it was in 2014 that one of the biggest campus movements, which was also among the first to reach and impact masses across the country through the use of social media, was reported: the Hok Kolorob movement. The four-month protests began after a case of molestation on the campus with peaceful demonstrations on 16 September demanding an investigation into the incident. Following unsuccessful attempts at dialogue, students gheraoed university personnel and vice chancellor Abhijit Chakraborty.
The vice chancellor, “fearing for his life”, called the police, which carried out a brutal lathicharge on students. It was alleged that female students were manhandled and many people who were not in uniforms attacked students. This led to a new wave of protests by students and teachers against the presence of police within the campus. A month later, students began a hunger strike, filling the campus’ walls with posters, burning effigies of the vice chancellor and shouting slogans demanding his resignation.
In December 2014, final year students boycotted the convocation ceremony, with the top graduating student from the arts faculty Gitasree Sarkar politely refusing to accept her certificate and medal in the presence of the vice chancellor as a mark of protest. On 12 January, 2015, students completed almost 160 hours of fast, with many hospitalised. Their fast ended with the vice chancellor’s resignation.
Chants of ‘aazadi’ allegedly resonated through the campus in February 2016, following the arrest of then JNU students’ union chief Kanhaiya Kumar. Students took out a procession with a large banner that proclaimed, “We are JU students and we are not anti-nationalist.” The group was seen calling for 'freedom' for Kashmir, Manipur and Nagaland on the varsity premises. "Hum kya chahe - Azadi. Kashmir ki Azadi. Manipur ki Azadi. Nagaland ki Azadi (We demand freedom. Kashmir's freedom. Manipur's freedom. Nagaland's freedom)," one of the posters at the campus read. The students also led a torch rally against police crackdown on students at JNU a day after solgans were raised in support of Parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru.
Another group of students tore posters and banners around the campus that were put up to express solidarity with JNU students.
The next major wave of violence to hit the campus was in May 2016, when protests erupted over the decision to screen Vivek Agnihotri’s political film Buddha in a Traffic Jam. On 6 May, the permission granted for screening the film was withdrawn. Nevertheless, ABVP decided to screen the film in a makeshift arrangement. Another group of students, in response to this decided to screen a film on the 2013 riots in Uttar Pradesh called Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai.
In ensuing scuffles, several female students were allegedly manhandled by ABVP activists, with FIRs being filed against both the sides. A protest march was held the next day, with students chanting slogans demanding ‘aazadi from RSS and BJP’.
A scuffle broke out between two groups of students in March 2019. They wanted to approach then vice chancellor Suranjan Das with their demands as soon as he stepped out of his office. Das had to be admitted to a hospital after the students allegedly manhandled him, sending him into a “state of shock”. West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee claimed that the vice chancellor was subjected to verbal abuse.
While the Arts Faculty Students' Union (AFSU) claimed it wanted to find out if the JU's executive council had taken up the issue of "inordinate delay" in facilitating elections, the members of TMCP said they sought to know about the status of a molestation case. "This had never happened to me in the past. The students blocked my path and turned aggressive even as I was trying to say that I am ready to speak to them in a proper manner," Das said.
The car of Jadavpur University professor Abhra Sen was vandalised in Kolkata’s Bansdroni area in July 2019 after he joined the BJP. His foray into the saffron party was the first of its kind from the varsity
The attack on Supriyo on Thursday at the university considered the hub of Left politics was just the latest in a series of clashes on campus. While the Asansol MP called for the need to “mentally rehabilitate” protesting students, BJP’s Dilip Ghosh called for a “surgical strike” to destroy “anti-national hubs in the campus”.
Meanwhile, in-fighting continues between the student groups within the university with SFI and ABVP holding separate rallies blaming the other for the violence and issuing condemnations.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Sep 21, 2019 18:15:54 IST