On a day when chief minister Mamata Banerjee threw her weight behind the agitating students of Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India, at home, the stir at Presidency University acquired an ugly twist with the pupils showing black flags during the CM’s visit to the campus on Friday. Mamata was forced to cut short her programme at the varsity and beat a hasty retreat to avoid an embarrassing situation while education minister Partha Chatterjee exited through a back gate.
Clearly, Mamata’s grant of Rs 160 crore to the university’s coffers failed to put a lid on the stir by students who have been agitating for the past few months over a variety of demands.
Recently, some top professors of Presidency who were roped in from abroad with the intention of turning this educational institution into a centre of excellence quit alleging political interference and that the atmosphere was not right for quality education to flourish.
Soon after the CM slipped out of the campus, the students gheraoed vice-chancellor Anuradha Lohia. At the time of going to press late at night, the gherao was still continuing with the V-C and other teachers locked up in the room.
Reacting to the developments, higher education minister Partha Chatterjee told HT: “I cannot say that all the students are bad. But what I understand is that a lot of cheap politics is going on. If this happens, no good student will come into politics.”
Late at night some Jadavpur University students joined their counterparts in Presidency to strengthen the gherao.
Friday’s campus protest comes within a few months of the state government’s prolonged confrontation with the students of Jadavpur University who dug in their heels from September 2014 to January 2015 and succeeded in removing V-C Abhijit Chakrabarti who had ordered a police crack down to quell student unrest.
On Friday, the anger of the students was triggered by a number of factors — no punishment of the ruling Trinamool Congress supporters who attacked the Presidency campus on April 10, 2012, exit of professors from the institution, tranfer of teachers on lien by the government and even inadequate hostel facilities for the students.
Friday’s visit was the first one by the chief minister. The students were also peeved at the CM addressing only first year students in the campus. “If she is so much in love with the university, why doesn’t she punish her partymen who vandalised the heritage Baker laboratory,” said Trisha Chanda, general secretary of the students union.