Last Thursday, some students at Jadavpur University (JU) protested an invitee, the Union Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Babul Supriyo, at an event organized by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). However, that nonviolent protest turned into a ‘shocking’ event when the minister let his guards loose and responded to the peaceful agitation with his own threats.
Some ABVP supporters and a few people associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also vandalised the university campus Arts Faculty Students Union, the UG Arts building and a few nearby shops.
Babul Supriyo went to attend a seminar organised by ABVP, and some students at JU were protesting against him by showing black flags and they also gheraoed him, not letting him leave the campus after the event.
This escalated into something else altogether when parts of the JU campus, and nearby areas, were set on fire by some ABVP and BJP activists. This invited usual commentary by the BJP, its spokespersons and its party members, who condemned the incident; some demanded the resignation of the Vice-Chancellor (VC) — Suranjan Das, who, according to them, couldn’t ‘control’ the situation and let students ‘heckle’ Babul Supriyo. Some also condemned the Trinamool Congress and a part of them also called the students out by saying that it was a ‘preplanned’ protest against ABVP. (Students denied this allegation. They told the local media that the protest had equal participation from all the student wings at the campus.)
Interestingly, not many condemned the ABVP and BJP activists’ gross misconduct in response to the nonviolent protest by some students. Except for a few students, who are shocked at what this event has metastasized into, and Samantak Das, a professor of comparative literature, who said, “I strongly condemn the attempt of ABVP activists to storm the university grounds and go on a rampage against unarmed students.”
It would be improper to report a select statement from his opinion on this event; he didn’t spare the students either. He added, “the way in which our students were behaving with Babul Supriyo and the governor of the state is not something that does them any good.”
It’s a mark of an educationist, whose role is important in building the idea of a nation, to look at both the sides of a matter. However, I think this logic escapes BJP, who only knows one mode of defence: Attack.
The member of parliament (MP) and president of the BJP’s West Bengal unit, Dilip Ghosh, at a press conference yesterday, addressing the happenings at JU, said, “The Jadavpur University campus is a hub of anti-national and communist activities. This is not the first time that such an incident has happened there. Just like our security forces conducted surgical strike to destroy terror camps in Pakistan, our cadres would also carry out the same type of surgical strike to destroy antinational hubs in JU campus.”
It’s more shocking to hear this than the happenings at JU on Thursday. It’s horrifying for anyone — affiliated with any political party or thought — to compare student activism with terrorist activities, to speak of harmful intent with peaceful dissent in the same breath, to deal students the way we deal goons to the likes of those who vandalized the university premises. Sadly, this is how BJP wants to build a nation — a nation without students who are allowed to voice their opinion, stage protest.
JU’s VC, Mr Das, was hospitalised post this event in a nearby private hospital. Mr Jagdeep Dhankar, Governor of West Bengal, visited him today and said that “VC is in good shape” and once he is back he will have “an interactive session with the students.”
He further added in his statement that he is “glad to say that we are on the same page. We have to work together to create the best suitable environment to explore the character of students and contribute in nation-building.” We don’t know yet how Mr Dhankar is going to go about ‘exploring the character’ of the students, but we do know that even saying this is a ray of hope against BJP president’s erstwhile mentioned advice.
This leaves me confused, actually, whose idea of ‘Nation Building’ will prevail: BJP’s or the Governor’s? I hope the idea of building, cultivating and sustaining a democratic nation is not lost on us. I hope.