For last few days my FB news feed is jammed with photos taken by my dear friends of a protest that has been brewing in my hometown. Protests are nothing new to the Jadavpur University. It is one of those places where the campus almost always bubbles with thought, activity, movement and therefore agitation. It is impossible to get inside the walls of this esteemed institution and not come out politically aware of the surroundings. Something about the trees, lakes, lecture halls and canteens makes one mentally active, discursive, opinionated.
I am never into political discussions or discourse. Do not get me wrong, I like politics, political thoughts, books on the subject, however, at a level where people like you and me, students and office-goers discuss politics, I have found the arena stuffed with either idiots or opportunists. Then there are the followers, who sore high like the kite, up on a new political movement.
Today, however, on this blog I find a need to talk about the subject that I mostly avoid. Jadavpur University and the severe insult to the institution that has been going on for past few days. I am, again not for bunking classes and using ‘gherao’ as a method to pass those students who have low percentages, wasting classes in favor of attending clubs or meetings. I have seen a few like that in my time in Jadavpur.
The news and the hashtag in last few days made me think about writing a long post on Facebook, multiple times. Only when I did attempt to write, I realized, I had loads to say. So here it goes…
I am APPALLED how a bunch a students who were protesting were treated worse than criminals. So many students, kids really from educated good middle-class families, arrested, ARRESTED!!! These students have a future. One record of police arresting them would probably forever stop them from pursuing any degree or job abroad and may be within a country.
Five years from now, no one will bother to ask ‘what were you arrested for?’, but all will know that you were arrested. I do no know what happens after this, but a good idea will be to clear the thirty-five students arrested of all charges.
Beaten, hurt, illegally attacked upon, molested… may be students, young and dynamic as they are, might just survive through that. My heart goes out for the one I am reading is in the hospital and extremely disturbed how there were no women police officials, when the police were called in the university. It is an extremely well known fact that the Jadavpur is a coeducational institution. How can someone even allow a bunch of officials to get inside without equal number of female cops?
I understand that just because someone is a student, it is not necessary that they are harmless. It can be threatening as well, for a smaller number of people (I do not know how many university officials were inside the university during the gherao) to be surrounded by screaming mob, even though the mob is singing or just holding up placards. Even then, this is one time that I have to agree that the students were protesting for something valid and social, something that we all should be doing. Police can come in the university, and frankly state can interfere within anything that is positioned inside the state.
What was and will never be acceptable is that whatever happened to the students was far from Crowd Control. Protests happen in every country, it is human right to protest as long as there is no tangible harm or inflammatory speech going on. Police in every country (except a few) plays a great role in Crowd Control, it is one of their main jobs.
Again, to control agitating students, there could have been multiple options or methods, just look at crowd control methods all around the world. Lathi-charge, is not always necessary and our police needs to re-think on this. There are many ways to break down a crowd without touching them or harming them. Lathi-charge to a group of educated people can be insulting as well.
I am sad because of two definite reasons. Jadavpur had always been a place where active political thought, involvement and education were all welcomed. We were taught to see, to analyze, to asses. As a Vice-Chancellor, of such an esteemed education center, the job should have been to protect the students, look after them, not throw them into a situation, where the consequence can be irreparable. Secondly, as of now, I have not read of any apology or any step to dissolve the situation that has been brewing. All I can add, is please do not spread rumors that might agitate or threaten the situation any more.