Outrage in Kolkata over Calcutta University and Vidyasagar University violence3 min read
KOLKATA: On the evening of May 14, waves of panic descended across Kolkata as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters, agitated by the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad’s (TMCP) student protests against BJP President Amit Shah’s rally in the city, stormed and attacked the campuses of Calcutta University (CU) and Vidyasagar University.
The context of the situation starts from Amit Shah’s rally, which was supposed to pass at late afternoon through College Street, where both Calcutta University and Vidyasagar College are located. The rally was met with huge enthusiasm from BJP supporters in Calcutta, but simultaneously, it was counter-protested by nearly 20 students of the student wing of TMCP under Calcutta University. The protests were described to be peaceful, and students who participated carried black flags and shouted anti-BJP slogans. There were no eye witness reports of any student getting involved in physical brawls with the opposing party whilst the protests were going on.
Students that spoke to The Manipal Journal reported that the cadres threw bottles of urine and police barricades into the campuses, burnt three motor bicycles and destroyed the bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, a philosopher and writer, who is considered to be an integral icon to Indian and Bengali culture.
There was widespread condemnation of the attack. Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of Bengal, and Partha Chatterjee, Education Minister of Bengal, came down to the premises and TMCP organised a protest in the CU campus in retaliation to the attacks. Hashtags like ‘#CUresists’ surrounding the protests appeared on numerous social media platforms.
“It’s a hostile, horrible situation. To hurt the statue, to hurt the memory of someone so integral to Bengali culture in a very progressive way, it’s very horrible. And the physical assaults, I understand that some students are pursuing a TMCP line of ideology, they might be participating in the Union, but these were after all, students. These were not cadres. Their identity first constitutes that of a student before their affiliation with any political party,” said Anubhav Chakraborty, first year, Department of English Language and Literature, CU.
When the attacks broke out, police were seen to have huddled the students into the campus spaces although it still left some physically injured. Bengali news channels were flooded with news clips where it was shown that BJP cadres were kicking the gates of the CU campus and breaking down Vidyasagar’s statue at Vidyasagar University. A bevy of reports also mentioned BJP rally members lighting fire to offices, stealing laptops and destroying things.
Adding to the confusion was a post that was being circulated, where a person who claimed to be a student of Vidyasagar College, alleged that TMCP protestors caused the disruption and damages. With the help of graphic evidence, the person who spread the rumour was shown to be an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) cadre, studying at Rabindra Bharati University.
Speaking to The Manipal Journal, another source, a student who wished to be anonymous, stated, “It (destruction of the statue) is something that ruffians do and that’s really disturbing and scary coming from a political mass.” On being asked about the controversy surrounding the incident, she said that she felt that it was ridiculous for the parties to blame each other. “No one can tempt you to break statues. It’s pretty dark and disturbing that such a thing can happen inside an educational institute above all else.” She insisted that it was important to realise that each one has a personal choice and should be allowed to make it without interference. Adding to this she said, “It’s a tightrope situation, with neither party perfect, and having had faced their fair share of protests. Vote responsibly and rationally. I feel like being rational at this point of time is very important.”
Featured Image Courtesy: Ashim Bandopadhyay
Edited by: Vaibhavi Vaman