Post #Hokkolorob: How Jadavpur University Has Kept Its Social Consciousness Alive

Posted on August 21, 2015 in Campus Watch, Staff Picks

By Ankita Ghosh:

General Body meetings are highly valued in Jadavpur University, some afternoons might I say, slightly more than double-periods with a guest lecturer. We scamper right out of lectures, an army of provoked youth and gather with our steaming cups of tea, quarter-burnt cigarettes, nascent ideas, uninspired criticism et al. Before I begin to tell you the story of 9,000 odd students from Kolkata, it is imperative to spell out in clear terms that the resolution out of this discussion, “…will be decided by the GB.” Such has been our commitment to democratic spirit despite severe dissent amongst participating individuals and groups inside campus. As a matter of fact it was in one such GB meeting, the morning after September 17th police crackdown last year that the resolution for what became the Hokkolorob Movement was passed.

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So what is happening in post-Hokkolorob world? Shraman Guha, General Secretary, Arts Faculty Students’ Union maintains, “Jadavpur no longer remains a distant island of protest but an active pole of resistance.” Since the conclusion of the movement this January, the students have hardly taken a day’s casual leave from lending their active support to the cause of agitating students caught in similar predicaments. From student agitations in Biswabharati to the near-exploding situation in Pondicherry University, a mirror image of our own, Jadavpur presently stands in demonstrative solidarity with FTII Pune. On quieter evenings there have been vigorous aid campaigns for Nepal earthquake and recent Bengal flood victims.

It is true that only major issues have prompted Jadavpur to launch social movements, ones that have reflected the massive discontent of society. However constant social consciousness, mobilization and cultural involvement in the heart of the University has been assimilated into a temperament for social activism running parallel to mainstream state politics. In the half a century old vivid history of the institution, Jadavpur University has never been skeptic of challenging the sedentary power of the status-quo. At various points, local or campus centric slogans have rung with a deeper anti-establishment tone of voice. This latent spirit of questioning the existing social order has exploded time and again to accommodate the aspirations of the larger civil society. It can be argued that the concept of students as a unit or even as a social class has always favored emotions over rationale. The question central to student movements is not whether they’ve failed or succeeded but whether they’ve been able to convey their message.

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Herbert Marcuse, one of the leading figures in Western Marxism, had predicted that students and not peasants or workers will carry the batons of social revolution but it seems that at the same time they run the risk of being misled. What invariably follows from an anti-state stance adopted by students are political calculations of the party system. While the state tries to crush them to maintain stability or use them as a tool to justify their political position, the oppositions become keen on capitalizing student led movements to reassert their counter-position. Sourav Ghosh, a PhD candidate in the university, believes that worse are the consequences for a partisan student movement that becomes by and large a material indicator for the mother party’s propaganda.

Jadavpur University ably validated in the event of an attack upon few individual students and their collective spirit that a strong bespeaking stand can also be taken independent of a partisan umbrella, and strictly nonviolently at that. That makes me conclude that a University can very well act as a competent pressure group as long as it holds democratic aspirations free of partisan bias. Whether Jadavpur University has really found a place to independently practice activism in the socio-political sphere is hard to assess. The fact however remains that it has been able to penetrate into the arena of State versus student occasionally veering into that of State versus society. While we cannot apprehend their success, it will certainly depend upon a particular moment in history. Dr. Gautam Kumar Basu observes, “History is never reproduced, but constantly constituted and Jadavpur has constituted history.”

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