Of Fear And Against Dissent: What’s Happening In Jadavpur University?

The emergence and prevalence of both, right and left-leaning political ideologies is not a rare sight in India’s student political scene. From JNU’s tussle with the centre in 2016 to the highly-charged DUSU elections every year, to the numerous examples of both sides being at each other’s throats, student politics in our country has been rife with partisan opinions and steps. 

Another similar scuffle was witnessed on the grounds of Jadavpur University on September 19. In order to attend an event organised by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which is the RSS’ student wing, Babul Supriyo, an MP from Asansol and the Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change had arrived on the campus. Following his arrival, the university saw a shift in public sentiment as numerous students began to oppose his involvement as the programme’s chief guest.

According to a report by Newslaundry.com, both Supriyo and Agnimitra Paul, another BJP leader, were stopped and more specifically, gheraoed, to be prevented from taking part in the function. More importantly, the allegations that Supriyo, who was accompanied by around four CRPF personnel, indulged in manhandling the students who surrounded him, have become the main points of contention. Moreover, the protesting students also alleged that the party members of the ABVP have themselves given way to violence against the protesters.

After what seemed to be only around 30 minutes of resistance by the students, Supriyo was allowed to attend this particular event. While Supriyo was in the hall, the students conducted a general body meeting to discuss their further course of action against the Minister’s actions in the university. While this would have been enough to unsettle Supriyo, he was further asked to stay until the students had come to a decision.

As the student meeting started to wrap up and the participants surrounded Supriyo again to demand an apology, the university began to witness another round of ruckus at its gate 4. According to a Times of India report, the premises were stormed by around 200 ABVP supporters and protesters on the same evening. Multiple student accounts have mentioned witnessing fires outside the gate, men armed with ‘lathis’ and the aftermath of this counter-violence has caused both moral and property damage to the campus.

The Arts union room, which is situated close to the said gate, was ransacked and disrupted. In addition to this, the mob had also, allegedly, taken part in the assault of at least two of the shopkeepers on the university grounds. Samantak Das, a professor of comparative literature at JU, in a conversation with TOI, said, “I have never witnessed violence like this on campus. This is not the Jadavpur University I have known for long. I am scared for the students.”

Although the firefighters had begun to douse most of the fires for that day, September 20 saw a rally that attracted more than 6000 people on the streets of Kolkata. These students marched, as a student talking to Newslaundry put forward, “with a sense of togetherness; unafraid, full of hope and resistance; with our songs, silences, slogans and lights.”

The reactions to this series of incidents have, like always, spanned across both the political and intellectual spectrum. While visionaries like West Bengal’s BJP president, Dilip Ghosh, have suggested conducting “Balakot-level” surgical strikes on the college, the Arts Faculty Student Union (AFSU) leader, Debraj Debnath, has defended the gheraoing by stating that the protests were to prevent the entrance of fascist forces on campus.

Students have been continuously protesting with banners and on social media, with songs of protest. Student councils of TISS Hyderabad and others have released statements expressing solidarity and angst against the incident. 

All things said and done, what remains on the grounds of Jadavpur University, now, is fear. The same fear that has begun to grow in the hearts of a lot of students across the country. The shift in our education system’s ideological stance is no longer an unseen one, and I, as a student have come to experience it on a rather personal level. Although, because of a lack of a common narrative, one cannot indulge in placing any blame precisely, what is fascinating to witness is the increased intellectual rift between our country’s educated populace and a state that has been famous for burying dissent.

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