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#LessonforDelhi: how teachers, cops prevented violence in Jadavpur

Rajat Roy | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:42 IST

The protests and counter-protests over the JNU crackdown and the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar have found an echo in Kolkata's Jadavpur University. And on Thursday, the protests could have ended in violence but for the prompt intervention of the teachers and the police.

Here's what happened.

In the afternoon, BJP and ABVP activists marched out of the city's Gol Park and towards Jadavpur University, which lies 2 km away. The police tried to stop the march near Jadavpur's police station by erecting manned barricades.

Also read - Jadavpur University reacts to 'anti-nationalism' with vandalism on campus

But the marchers, led by the actress Locket Chatterjee, broke through the barricades. As they were about to enter the campus, the police hurriedly put up another barricade to keep them out.

In the meantime, the university's students, protesting against the tearing up of their posters on the campus by some ABVP activists Wednesday, came out in numbers and stood face-to-face with the incoming rally. Tension gripped the campus.

It was then that the teachers promptly arranged themselves like a shield in front of their students. Although there was much slogan-shouting from both sides, the teachers and the police managed to keep the two groups separate, and averted a major, likely violent, confrontation.

Also read - MHA seeks report pro-Afzal sloganeering in Jadavpur University

Taking charge

Nilanjana Gupta, a professor of English and leader of the Jadavpur University Teachers Association, later told Catch she and her colleagues felt it was their moral responsibility to protect their students.

"We were alarmed by a threat issued by leader of a political party yesterday that they would come in numbers and enter the campus. They had threatened to resort to 'Prothome Maar, Pare Bichar', which means they would first beat up the students first and then discussions could take."

"Also, yesterday, some students roamed around the campus, carrying a tricolor and shouting 'Bharat mata ki jay'. The same group also tore up the posters put up on the campus by the students to express solidarity with the JNU students."

It was then, Prof Gupta said, that she and some other teachers decided to act. "The university is open to all. Anybody can come and debate if they want to. But resorting to physical abuse and attack is different. We have responsibility towards our students. So we took the threat of violence seriously and were ready to intervene," she added.

We took threat of violence to our students seriously and got ready to intervene: Prof Nilanjana Gupta

Although the teachers succeeded in averting any "untoward incident", the issue is far from resolved. The the governor and the state government have both asked the vice-chancellor for a report on Wednesday's "incident" - the raising of slogans demanding Azadi for Kashmir, Nagaland and Manipur.

"Hum kya chahte... Azadi; Kashmir ki... Azadi; Manipur ki... Azadi; Nagaland ki... Azadi; RSS se... Azadi; Modi Sarkar se... Azadi. Cheen ke lenge Azadi," went some of the slogans.

The sloganeering students also held up posters and placards with messages that went something like, "if the Gujarat mass murderers, those who hanged Afzal Guru are patriots, and if the students of Kashmir seeking independence are anti-nationals, then we are all anti-nationals".

Put in the dock

Of course, the students have been taken to court. A BJP leader, Krishanu Mitra, has filed a PIL in the Calcutta High Court demanding action against them as well as an NIA investigation into the entire incident.

Kiran Rijju, the junior union home minister, has said the Centre has sought a report from the West Bengal government. The governor Kesarinath Tripathi, a BJP man appointed by the Modi regime, has urged vice-chancellor Suranjan Das to register an FIR against the students. Tripathi, as governor, is the chancellor of the university.

Kesarinath Tripathi wants Jadavpur varsity VC to file FIR against students. Baring his BJP teeth?

Das though has indicated that he is in favour of a spirit of dissent and debate on the campus.

Mamata Banerjee is perhaps the only political leader who hasn't made a statement on the issue. The chief minister is seeking a fresh term this year and is, therefore, trying not to take positions on polarising issues. Yesterday, while announcing a number of projects for the poor, she parried questions on the Jadavpur University protests, telling the reporters not to "dilute this issue" - pro-poor projects announced by her - with other matters.

Edited by Mehraj D. Lone

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First published: 19 February 2016, 12:38 IST
Rajat Roy

Journalist based out of Kolkata.