Academics and normalcy seems to have deserted Jadavpur University (JU). On Tuesday, 11 students of the university began a hunger strike unto death demanding the resignation of vice-chancellor Abhijit Chakrabarti.
With the indefinite fast, the Hok Kolorob movement entered a new phase. “Today you are seeing 11 students. More would join soon. We have five demands the most important of which is the removal of our vice-chancellor. The movement would go on unless our demands are met,” said Geetashri Sarkar, the general secretary of the arts faculty of the university. Sarkar refused her best undergraduate student medal at the university convocation on December 24. She was followed by around 100 students who refused to accept their medals and certificates protesting against Chakrabarti’s continuation in office.
On Tuesday, Trinamool MLA Nirmal Majhi’s Facebook post on the Hok Kolorob movement also was a point of discussion. “Aabar Noy aar panpanani... Abar hok kalani” (No more of cribbing, now only bashing). Majhi’s comment on the movement created uproar. “I detest such acts. I guess my Facebook account was hacked. There may have been a technical problem,” Majhi said later in the day after deleting the post.
However, by then the damage was done. “Such posts show the culture of this political party. I am an outsider from Calcutta University. I am here with few of my friends to show solidarity to our peers in Jadavpur,” said Ankita Sanyal, a Physics M.Sc student of Calcutta University. Students from Presidency University and Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology too were at the university to show support.
An attempt made by JU registrar Pradip Kumar Ghosh to break the ice with students through dialogue was also turned down.
Among the demands raised by students includes a probe into the alleged molestation of a girl on August 28, restructuring of the internal complaint committee and removal of CCTV from the campus. The state government later instituted a five-member probe panel headed by University of Calcutta vice-chancellor Suranjan Das to look into the prima facie evidence of the alleged molestation. Two university students and an alumnus were arrested and subsequently released on bail.
As the students began their fast, Chakrabarti too decided to take a stance. Instead of going to his chamber at Aruobindo Bhavan, where students were staging the hunger strike he decided to run his office from below a tree. Soon the deans along with registrar Ghosh again tried to negotiate with the students and accepted all their demands bar ring Chakrabarti’s ouster.
However, the students refused to roll back their movement. In the evening, education minister Partha Chatterjee issued a terse warning. “Students should concentrate on their studies and not get involved in protests every other day,” said Chatterjee. Chakrabarti finally left the university from his makeshift office. Before leaving, he summoned an executive council meeting on Wednesday in another attempt to resolve the issue.