Fighting to protect its autonomy & keep political power in check, JU is seen as a symbol of resistance
Image Courtesy: Samir Jana/Hindustan Times
Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP)’s questionable practices, or ethics are no secret. Two days back the youth wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and of course, also affiliated to the ruling BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) took out a rally in Kolkata. The rally which started from GoI Park was stopped by the police at the Jodhpur Park crossing. The ABVP students reportedly also indulged in stone pelting.
However, what were the ABVP members protesting?
The RSS backed students’ outfit had organised a seminar in which they invited the Union Minister Babul Supriyo on campus. The seminar was being held by the ABVP on the issue of the controversial, National Register of Citizens (NRC). The threat of the NRC, is a favourite campaign point with the ruling BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP); BJP is pitching for such a process in the whole country despite the process having created a humanitarian crisi in Assam. According to reports, Supriyo, while responding to the protesting students, allegedly threatened that “all those with minority opinion and (all) the minorities should be thrown out of the country”.
As Supriyo entered the campus alongwith his security guards, he was greeted by black flags and slogans against ‘fascism’ by various student organisations reportedly from progressive and left groups. Media reports also record that the confrontation became serious when the minister refused to budge from the site of the protest and “responded to the agitation with threats of his own.”
Meanwhile, the ABVP and the BJP started a fire, vandalised the Arts Faculty Students’ Union, the UG Arts building and a few shops in and around Gate no. 4 of the university. Reportedly, they also beat up some students who were found bleeding profusely near the site of violence.”
Students associated with the ABVP were also heard chanting ‘Jai shri Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ while setting fire to furniture, computers and ceiling fans and also painting ABVP on the walls of the room, according to a report in the Times of India.
Even while the mayhem was raging and university property was being vandalised, videos surfaced on social media of the Union minister angrily chiding the VC about having orchestrated the protests against him. Suranjan Das who looked very disturbed, is a well-known academic in his own right, was made to answer that why he did not come to “receive” the minister on his visit. Just as Das was seen explaining to Supriyo that the event in question was organised by a student political outfit (ABVP), to which he himself was not invited, the BJP leader’s aggression peaked into a convulsive tirade: “I am sure you are a leftist!”
Supriyo, by implication meant that to be a leftist was to be a criminal!
Universities are instituted through Acts of parliament as structurally ‘autonomous’ bodies. Section 9(1)(b)(ii) of the Jadavpur University Act strives for this autonomy by maintaining that “a person shall not be qualified to be the Vice Chancellor if he is a member of, or otherwise associated with, any political party”.
Hence, as per the law, a VC “receiving” a Union minister attending the institution for a political event may be seen as acting in a “partisan manner while in office” – a substantive ground for removal of a VC, as per the Act.Not only did Supriyo threaten the VC, reportedly he also threatened a female student that she should come to his room so that he could “tell” who he is.
Babul Supriyo is a man with a chequered history. In 2018, while speaking at an event organised to distribute wheelchairs and other assistive devices to persons with disabilities, Supriyo threatened a man – who apparently had distracted him – that he would break one of his legs and hand him a crutch.
According to a Hindustan Times report, during a visit to Asansol in March after communal clashes following Ram Navami celebrations in the state, Supriyo had threatened to “skin” some people “alive” for shouting slogans against him. An FIR was subsequently filed against the Union minister for allegedly preventing the police from performing their duty in Asansol.
In the recent incident, the Telegraph ran a front page story detailing the sequence of events. Supriyo, reportedly rang the paper’s editor and in the course of demanding an apology for a headline and caption, used choice expletives. “Around 7.50pm, the minister called Telegraph editor R. Rajagopal on his mobile phone during the evening news meeting. Supriyo introduced himself and said he would like an “amicable apology”,” the report on the paper reads. The report says that upon the editor’s insistence that the paper had nothing to apologise for, the BJP leader grew incensed and said the paper had “f***ing sold out.”
The Jadavpur University incident brought out the ‘best’ from other BJP leaders or supporters who said that universities such as Jadavpur should be destroyed in a “Balakot like surgical strike” because they are the “hub of anti-nationals”.
However, the students have said that what transpired at the university was an act of resistance against fascism and that they do not repent what happened.