Voices From JU
Students in Action
Koumi Dutta & Swastik Basu
On 10th September, the students of Jadavpur University (JU) began with their sit-in demonstration. On 20th September, the streets of Kolkata witnessed a rally like no other, a rally that brought together one lakh students from all over the state, who joined hands to raise their voices against the State aided atrocities and cadre hooliganism that has become rampant in the colleges of West Bengal. 10th April 2013 had seen the historic Baker Lab of Presidency University erstwhile Presidency College being ransacked by goons; girl students were allegedly molested and even threatened with rape. But then, the girls in the state now have to live with this threat everyday. Ask the students and teachers of Rajabajar Science College, for whom encountering physical assaults from political party goons has become a regularity, the latest of them occurring as recently as 18 September. The list elongates with instances of combined police and goon atrocities on students of Calcutta Medical College (18th November, 2011). The tension was already there, something finally gave away. And it was the 10 days that shook the World -as one of the JU students would say.
The rustlings had begun when the Jadavpur University authority showed immense irresponsibility and negligence when it fell upon them to offer justice to a girl who alleged a few hostel boys for sexual harassment within the university premises on 28.8.2014. The students demanded a transparent and impartial investigation of the incident. They were determined to protest against any form of gender violence in the campus, and went for indefinite peaceful sit-in-demonstration to ensure that justice is meted out to the victim.
But then, on a fateful night, the authority showed their true colours. It was the night of September 17th, when police, special action force and goons marched into the campus, at a time when the Students were gathered outside Aurobindo Bhaban, waiting for the VC's public statement. What happened at JU can invoke memories of what happened at the battle of Plassey, when, at the midnight the oppositions attacked the camp of resting soldiers. The VC called the forces (accompanied by the goons) as he was, in his own words, caught in a life-threatening situation! However there are ample video footages showing that minutes before the lights went out, and police began their atrocity, the protesting students were singing together, a rhythmic tune with beagle guitar and mouth organ reverberating into the dark night, carrying the promise of resistance.
The students had weapons with them? Oh yes! They had exactly the weapons that can give sleepless nights to the repressive machineries of power. They had the might of the pen, the power of the guitars. No doubt the police felt the need to combat that with their own arms. The students were beaten to bleed and girls were groped and molested by the law keepers. Constant updates from the friends at epicentre left all concerned sleepless all over the night.
Movement and JU are intertwined, and it was not new for JU to witness movements and state atrocities irrespective of the ruling party enjoying state power. Organised state terror and the vindication, which followed the attack, were remarkable and one of the most heinous in recent times. Different educational institutes all over the country showed solidarity to the Students movement. But in Bengal, the people who showed solidarity are being tagged as outsiders, threatened and beaten up everyday, be it Scottish Church College or the premises of Burdwan University; and a bleak shadow of uncertainty and fear continues to grow over the educational campuses.
Jadavpur University today stands as an idea, which showed 'the government should be afraid of its people'. It is a symbol of protest against the lumpeni-sation and prioritisation of nepotism over excellence at the educational Institutes. It is a voice of dogged resistance against the state machineries that have propagated campus violence irrespective of the political party at the helm. People need to remember that this is not the first instance of state sponsored brutality at the campus. The University had seen police lathicharge on the students in 2010, in 2005. Thus the history serves as a significant reminder that the parties at the helm come and go, but the resistance that is synonymous with Jadavpur University stands strong as a pillar of hope, as an idea. For ideas, as they say, are bulletproof.
Students all over the state joined the movement marching in the torrential rain, marching in uncountable numbers on 20th of September.
From Hong Kong to Kolkata, the world has, and will continue to witness large scale independent students' movement against wayward authority, against privatisation of education. For they will always fight, as long as there is the reason to fight.
Vol. 47, No. 18, Nov 9 - 15, 2014