September 20, 2014 will never be erased from my mind, and the minds of tens of thousands, perhaps even lakhs, of students who braved the elements to join shoulders with the students of Jadavpur University, in solidarity.
Jadavpur University students have been protesting University inaction and high-handedness of the authorities in the investigation of an alleged molestation that happened on the night of August 28, for well over 15 days now. The protests culminated into a sit-in on September 10, when students sat down in agitation against the University authorities demanding for justice. Things took an ugly turn in the early hours of September 17- the students were brutally assaulted both by police and Trinamool goons on the peacefully protesting students. Women protesting there were assaulted and molested, agitating against molestation.
40 students had to be hospitalized, and 38 were arrested!
This gross violation of the democratic rights of the students awoke a rage in the students that the smart phone generation have often been lamented lacking in. A protest march was taken out on September 17 where in over 5,000 students participated, voicing their protest. A twin protest march was carried out on the very next day which saw over 10,000 participants.
Their intention was clear. They wanted justice for the girl in question, an unbiased investigation to be carried out, and the resignation of the Vice Chancellor who had ordered the widely condemned police action on his own students.
The word on the street spread out like wildfire on social media (#hokolorob was trending at the top at one point of time) that a ‘Mahamichil’(Mega Rally) would be taken out on Saturday, September 20, from Nandan cinema complex to Raj Bhavan, where the students would put down their demands to the Governor, who is also the Chancellor of the University. The optimists expected 25,000 people, the pessimists predicted 15,000.
On the morning of September 20, 2014, the weather Gods rumbled ominously. Incessant rain started from around 10:30 in the morning and hadn’t relented by the time the rally was scheduled to start. There was a collective fear that maybe the rains would wash out the march. Perhaps, all of us feared that no one would turn up. Or the fact that we would be missing out on that one chance where we all could stand up against oppression on our fellow brethren and issue a strong statement.
Everyone came. Students of different colleges, even schools, teachers, alumni, common folks. Everyone!
Braving the rains, braving the unfavourable elements, to stand up for what’s right and to show the students of Jadavpur University that they do not stand alone.
The official estimate by the police stands at around 60,000 to 1,00,000. Unofficial count suggests that the figure was close to 1,20,000. This has been one of the largest apolitical student marches to be held in recent times in the country. The mood was electric, the voices were loud and clear. Chants of Hok Kolorob tore the skies wide open. The word that students in Delhi had also marched along with us in thousands uplifted the mood even further. The jaws were set. The faces were determined. A stand had to be taken today.
We captured some of those moments.
The ‘official’ protest chant.
Saturday’s rally showed me, and all of us who were a part of this momentous event, that we are not as apathetic as we thought we are. We care. The rain didn’t stop us from voicing our dissent against the tyranny of the University officials and the state machinery.
My city came alive. She was strong and confident, and thrumming with energy. She was angry and she wanted answers, instead of being her usual silent, cowering self. She made me fall in love with all over with her again.
I’m a proud Calcuttan today!