Kolkata commissioner of police said on Thursday the police showed restraint in dealing with Jadavpur University students, who were demanding a fresh probe into the alleged sexual harassment of a female student inside the campus, on Tuesday.
The students had surrounded the vice-chancellor Abhijit Chakrabarti and registrar Pradip Ghosh since Tuesday and were demanding a fresh probe into the case where a woman student was allegedly dragged into a men's hostel and sexually molested two weeks ago.
At least 35 students, who were protesting outside the university campus against the molestation, were arrested by the police on Wednesday.
"Police had shown extreme restraint, and what they had done was completely according to law," said Surajit Kar Purkayastha in a press conference, while claiming some of them were in plain clothes.
The commissioner’s claims come even as protests continued to pour in from different sections of the society against the “police excess”.
"The police received written distress messages from the vice-chancellor, and therefore, had to go there. But the accusation of lathi charge is mere falsehood. The police did not carry lathis to the campus," he said.
"We are alive to the sensitivities of stepping into educational institutes, but one cannot ignore repeated communication from the authorities if they say their lives are in danger. Who would have taken the responsibility if something untoward had happened," argued the city's top cop.
Interestingly, the police commissioner's claims were contradicted by urban development minister and the chief minister Mamata Banerjee's confidante, Firhad Hakim.
"The police should have shown more restraint," Hakim had said on Wednesday.
Students had also complained that the lights inside the campus were switched off at around 2am before the police started action. The police commissioner refused to comment on it.
"We have no idea of it. I cannot comment without investigation," said Kar Purkayastha.
He also said there was sufficient number of woman police officers at the spot after female students alleged that they were manhandled by the officers.
The commissioner also claimed they had information that there were a number of “outsiders” at the spot who were carrying "dangerous weapons".
Though the commissioner did not specify what he meant by “outsiders”, the students have claimed Trinamool Chhatra Parishad supporters sneaked in with the police and beat them up mercilessly.
Opposition leaders, like Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Samik Bhattacharya, immediately lashed out saying the police should declare what dangerous arms have been seized from the spot.
"These people are agents of the ruling party. What else can we expect from them? We have all seen the police has not shown any restraint. There was no need to pounce on the students after switching of the lights," said Adhir Chowdhury, state Congress president.
"I am a former student of this university. It is correct the police are obviously under pressure if they get repeated messages from the VC that his life is under threat. But the police commissioner should not resort to falsehood. Why didn't police arrest outsiders as the commissioner is claiming and why didn't they seize the dangerous weapons that the commissioner is referring to?" remarked CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakravarty.
Chakravarty also commented the primary responsibility of the incident lies with the VC.