The Jadavpur University witnessed high drama Thursday when Union Minister Babul Supriyo came to campus to attend a seminar organised by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the RSS and was heckled by students. The protesters allege that the leader had insulted and threatened some students.
What started as a protest soon snowballed into violence and arson as alleged ABVP members then ransacked the university offices and set fire to a JU gate.
Kolkata saw rallies being held the entire day. While the BJP held protests over Supriyo being manhandled, supporters of left-wing organizations held protests over the ransacking of students’ union room.
According to news reports, four FIRs have been lodged at the university police station since Thursday night.
One is a suo motu case lodged by the police, and the other three have been registered by JU General Secretary of Arts Faculty Students Union (AFSU) Debraj Debnath, ABVP JU Convener Nityananda Mistry and BJP member Agnimitra Paul.
“They pulled me by my hair and pushed me,” Supriyo claimed, who is seen in videos surrounded by a huge crowd of protesting students refusing to let him enter the campus.
On Thursday, Supriyo had gone to JU to address an event organised by ABVP, where he was gheraoed by protesters. The minister refused to leave and entered into a verbal altercation with the students.
JU vice chancellor Suranjan Das tried to intervene and asked Supriyo to proceed to the event, but the standoff continued for nearly an hour.
As he prepared to leave after attending the seminar, he faced a demonstration by the students again and was stopped.
As the situation escalated, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar had to reach the campus to rescue Supriyo.
The protestors have alleged that Supriyo had insulted and threatened some students.
“A peaceful protest had been organised because we knew Supriyo was coming to the campus. Students of Jadavpur University (JU), from across organisations, were present and preparing to show black flags (to the union minister),” Samanway Raha, the Kolkata district secretary of the Left-backed Students’ Federation of India (SFI) said.
According to Raha, the demonstration, agitated Supriyo who allegedly made sexist remarks in Bengali against female students who had gathered there. According to protesters, Supriyo refused to enter the hall until all protesting students left.
The same evening, stick wielding supporters allegedly from the ABVP stormed the university premises.
They ransacked the Arts union room near Gate No. 4, the ground-floor corridor of the UG Arts building, set fire to at least six cycles and blocked the road outside the university for over an hour.
The rampage began around 7 pm and continued for over an hour.
Shouting “Jai Shree Ram” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai,” witnesses said the ABVP supporters set fire to furniture, computers and ceiling fans of the room.
It’s a charge that ABVP has denied. “Outsiders must have felt bad that a union minister was being held captive, so they entered the campus,” one of the members told a news channel.
Supriyo has accused the Mamata Banerjee government of not coming to his rescue. The minister has also maintained that he was manhandled by the protesting students.
“They assaulted me the moment I got out of the car. They kicked me, punched me, caught my hair… pulled me from one end to another. These were apparently students,” he told a news channel.
“They hit me again with wooden sticks on my hand after I came down from the programme,” he added.
The incident has definitely acquired a political colour with leaders from both sides blaming each other for the ruckus.
BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvergiya said the incident was evidence of the deteriorating law and order situation in Bengal. Saying that the TMC and the police allowed it to happen, he wondered how the condition of the common man is in the state, if a union minister and governor didn’t feel safe in it.
Extending support to the union minister, BJP Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta too criticised the agitators for creating a disgraceful scene in a tweet.
On the other hand, the TMC has claimed that the governor played partisan politics by visiting the university without taking the state government in confidence.
Editorial note: There is a lot of speculation about what really happened at Jadavpur University, with differing accounts offering different perspectives. If you are a student from Jadavpur University and want to write about what transpired at the university, or how you feel about the developments of the last couple of days, publish your stories here.