The week that flew by had the entire world outraged beyond its senses. French satirical daily Charlie Hebdo was attacked by terrorists, leaving most of its prominent cartoonists and columnists butchered in cold blood. Boko Haram touched a new low even by its own standards with as many as 2,000 feared dead, including several children and elderly, in one of the deadliest attacks of ‘cleansing’ in recent times. Sadly, as always, most of the world was oblivious to the sufferings of the African people.
Tonight, however, Kolorob happened!
Shrouded in near complete oblivion, the last week saw a just concluded hunger strike in the middle of one of the most tenacious and stretched student rebellion in a very long time. Over 150 hours of fasting by a handful of the most tenacious students, relentless support from students bodies all across the country, the solidarity of people skewed across communities today finally, belatedly, but thankfully, culminated into the resignation of the Abhijit Chakrabarti as the Vice Chancellor of Jadavpur University.
When Hokkolorob started, it began, as all movements do, with one significant incident, that of a woman being allegedly molested inside the campus of Jadavpur University during the then ongoing annual cultural festival. The authorities, however, did not give the incident the importance they should have, triggering off protests from the student body for a fair, just and thorough investigation of the matter. Tensions ran high, the vice Chancellor retrenched obstinately refusing to listen to reason and the students kept protesting till the early hours of September 17, when they were brutally attacked by the state police machinery and ruling political party goons.
The protests against brutality on students spread like wildfire all across the nation and some parts of the world, with massive support pouring in from all corners. Twin rallies in Kolkata on September 17 and 18 saw as many as 5,000 and 10,000 people turning up. The mega rally on September 20 or the mahamichil as it was termed, was estimated to have over 60000 protesters walking in the rains to the Governor’s office, who also happens to be the Chancellor of the University, demanding the resignation of the interim Vice Chancellor.
Since that crescendo of popular support, Hokkolorob has been ploughing on with students of the University valiantly fighting, often alone, against the injustice meted out to them. The Interim VC Abhijit Chakrabarti was given a tenure of four years, students retaliated by a 24 hour hunger strike and effigy burning on the one month anniversary of protests and more recently, 100 students refused to accept their certificates at the convocation, with the gold medalist Gitosri Sarkar refusing to take her medal, point blank, from a stunned Governor K.N. Tripathi.
150 hours and then some.
That’s how long it took, along with months of continuous agitation, some virile, some lackluster, but always present, always there, for an obstinate, callous Vice Chancellor to step down from his high horse and resign. That, and some well timed political pressure from our dearest Chief Minister, dearest being a term of endearment that I would use to describe Bellatrix Lestrange.
It is hardly the time for pettiness, but dearest (again, Bellatrix Lestrange reference) Chief Minister, this is something that should have happened 4 months ago. This can be construed as a last ditch attempt to pacify an angry people after two of your most trusted lieutenants are now behind bars, thanks to the Saradha Scam.
It also might be a change in heart after relentlessly subduing and sabotaging the movement at every stage and turn. The cynic is me, however, sneers at that idea.
But, of course, you made it come true – the common refrain on everyone’s lips.
The VC must go. And he is now. Going going and gone.
Out of the 12 students who sat on an indefinite hunger strike, three had been hospitalized with severe sugar level problems, the rest weren’t doing good either. But the tenacious students didn’t seem to be in a mood to relent this time around.
“We are trying to keep them as comfortable as possible with blankets and water and we are constantly monitoring if any one of them needs any medical attention of sorts,” said Sreya Saha, who has been one of the people involved in helping the students in the hunger strike. A few hours back, she sends me a whatsapp message, smelling of sweet jubilance, a roar of victory, “We have done it! The VC is going to resign!”
On Friday, the students had met and spoken with the State Education Minister, Partha Chatterjee, but all he had was mere words. He assured the students that he would look into their grievances, but bear in mind, this is the man who had batted aside the student protests when it had flared up in the first place. It took his boss to come and clean up his mess. I doubt that he’s going to be very comfortable in the coming days.
In a shot in the arm for the protesters, some parents of the students had been sitting on a 12 hour fast today, showing their solidarity with the fasting students. In a quote to NDTV, Nabanita Pal, mother of Nabattoma Pal, who has been fasting since January 5, said, “What kind of a vice chancellor is this? Children, including my daughter, are on fast and falling ill but he is doing nothing. The vice chancellor has to go, that is the only solution!”
The Jadavpur University Teacher’s Association had also expressed full support for students and had called for the Vice Chancellor to step down.
In a funny world, it would be hilarious to see the students, the parents and the teachers agreeing on the same thing. Unfortunately, it is a world where students have to fast indefinitely for their cause to register their grievance. Thankfully, it is still a world where we can stick it to the man!
An indefinite hunger strike seemed extreme to some, but that’s what it took the authorities to finally accede to the students’ demands, having adamantly being stuck at denying these students the justice that they deserve for the last 4 months.
The VC had to go.
To critics and seasoned politics mongers – student agitations do work. It just takes longer than usual sometimes for the impossible to happen.
The air in Jadavpur University is heady with the power of this momentous victory where all student political bodies set aside their differences and stood for what’s right and what’s just. And won.
This is the kind of a moment when you would want Morgan Freeman to say these words with a twinkle in his eye.
“Remember, remember, the Seventeenth of September!”
Hok Kolorob, Hoyeche Kolorob, Cholbe Kolorob!