Amid the flurry and scurry of the city on Monday evening, December 30, at 8B bus stand in the Jadavpur area of Kolkata, an assistant professor of English at Jadavpur University, Doyeeta Majumdar, and two other students were beaten and heckled by the mass gathered at an event, organised allegedly by a saffron association.
According to a post by the professor narrating the events, on her way back home, she overheard a speech which was “spewing naked hate speech against Muslims for a good few minutes…” and propagated ludicrous claims against Jadavpur University. She immediately protested and let out a cry, “This is a lie!”
This voice of an honest dissent was met with her being surrounded by a group of middle-aged women who started roughing her up. While she was being assaulted and abused, two students, Pinaki Dholey and Rahi Halder, from the Department of Mass Communication at Jadavpur University, were passing by. They witnessed the situation and were driven to intervene on seeing a woman being beaten up publicly. However, the people who had gathered at the event isolated the two students and assaulted them too, according to Majumdar’s post.
According to the two students who were roughed up, the police were present at the event but they were silent onlookers to the violence. Meanwhile, some of the locals intervened to free the students from the violent group. Later, when the commotion settled, a group of students arrived at the spot from the Jadavpur University campus nearby and raised slogans at the venue, while the event continued alongside.
Afterwards, many people joined in resistance to strengthen the opposition against the audacious crackdown, allegedly by the saffron organisation, which was reportedly attended by Shamik Bhattacharya, the spokesperson of the West Bengal unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and other notable faces from the party.
The loud cheer of “Azaadi” (freedom) by the students lulled the microphones that were still blazing from the event organised by the Shyamaprasad Mookherjee Smarak Samiti of Jadavpur, an evident sympathizer of the Modi-led government. The event was an attempt to counter the nationwide uproar against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
It specifically attacked Jadavpur University, as it is a well-known centre of resistance against these fascist laws which aims to taint citizenship with a communal blotch, and violates the Constitution of India, while ‘othering’ the Muslim community by preaching rampant Islamophobia.
A distraught Doyeeta Majumdar posted a status on Facebook after she was heckled and abused which snowballed into people rushing to the spot.
“Once again, I am fine, no blood spilt, no bones broken, but that this could happen to me in Jadavpur, where I live and work, at the hands of middle-aged middle-class women, is a sign of the times we live in. If you think this will not happen to you, you are really, really deluded,” she wrote.
However, the incident could not break her spirited resistance against the NRC and the CAA.
“The upside was that this did manage to derail their hate-speeches for a good thirty minutes–it was difficult to get the bloodthirsty ladies back in line it seemed. Now they are back to shouting Jai shree ram, and I have locked my door, hoping no one followed me to my flat, and thanking my lucky stars I live in Calcutta,” she added in her post.
Doyeeta, in her statement to the local media, stated that the speech was openly spreading hate against Jadavpur University.
“He was saying that the Jadavpur University students chant ‘Allah-hu- Akbar’ in the morning every day and I laughed out loud at such a ridiculous claim. Then, I said it out aloud that these were lies. Instantly, I was surrounded by a lot of people who pushed me. I was surrounded by a group of women and they started heckling me,” she recalled as she was waiting for her FIR to be lodged at the Jadavpur police station.
Pinaki Dholey, one of the students who was beaten by the miscreants at the event, said that he was passing by with his friend, Rahi Halder, when he noticed Doyeeta being roughed up while the police silently looked.
“We went forward to rescue her and protest against the people who were beating her up. We repeatedly asked them ‘Why are you hitting her?’ As soon as we said that, these people turned to attack us. I tried to take a video of the incident but they snatched my phone, they pulled me by the collar and dragged me to a corner and started randomly slapping and punching me. Rahi was also isolated and beaten up,” Dholey told me.
One of the students who rushed to the spot when informed, Somasree Chaudhury, a student of the Department of International Relations at Jadavpur University, told me that the police agreed to identify the miscreants and was pushed to action only after the group that arrived at the spot charged them of being silent spectators.
“When we reached, we saw Pinaki and Rahi were standing at the spot and the police and the media were both present. Only after we charged the police of inaction did they agree to identify the miscreants who beat up the students,” she said.
Amid West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s vehement opposition of the NRC and the CAA, the silence of the state’s police in such an act of violence by a right-wing organisation is an inexplicable occurrence.
However, while structural fallacies are abundant in the corrupt political climate of India, with all political parties operating as per their vested interests, the student community has risen up to the moral indictment of such a depraved aberration of power politics.
The aforementioned incident is an overwhelming example of the power of collective resistance against the brute violence and abuse of the saffronised terror that has shaken India in the last fortnight. The reverberating slogans of “Azaadi”, the outcry against the Modi-led autocracy is sonorous of the frustrations of the students, which have finally been echoed by masses around the city.
The message is loud and clear, that if one tries to throttle the voice of dissenters and to suppress the resistance of students, and attack academicians and intellectuals, the masses will no longer be fettered by the repressive tactics of saffronised associations.
Instead, their megalomania would be outnumbered by the slogans and demonstrations of the students who have vowed to uphold freedom, and have bravely battled state repression.
Note: This article is a first-person account by the author, who was present at the scene.