Babul Supriyo tells Jadavpur vice-chancellor he was hit, kicked in campus
Union minister Babul Supriyo’s visit to Jadavpur University resulted in around five hours of high drama on Thursday evening with the Union minister being heckled, pushed, and having his hair pulled by a group of students; stopped from leaving campus for hours; and eventually being rescued by the governor of West Bengal.
Although the incident didn’t turn ugly, with videos showing the minister largely keeping his composure even as he argued with the students, mostly from the Students Federation of India and Arts Faculty Students Union -- both affiliated with the Left parties -- it is likely to further sour the already poor relationship between the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress and Supriyo’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
Supriyo, the minister of state for environment, forest and climate change, reached the university campus close to 2:45 pm to attend a fresher’s welcome function organised by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliate Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) at an auditorium inside the campus. Students immediately surrounded him, waving black flags and shouting slogans. They would not let him proceed to the auditorium. For about an hour, the minister continued to argue with the students, who pushed and manhandled him, and also engaged in heated arguments with vice-chancellor Suranjan Das.
The minister said he was hit and kicked by some students. A few agitators also pulled at his hair. The agitators numbered about 500. “Don’t hit me,” Supriyo was heard telling the agitators. “You cannot force me to leave the campus.”
While the minister managed to reach the auditorium around 4pm, the situation worsened when he tried to leave at around 5 pm. The agitators said they would not allow him to leave unless he apologised for his behaviour and for entering the university campus with security guards carrying weapons.
With the standoff continuing even after 6 pm, a statement from Raj Bhavan, the governor’s residence described the incident as “unlawful detention of a Union minister” and “very serious reflection on the law and order of the state and on the conduct of the law enforcing agencies.”
The statement revealed that governor Jagdeep Dhankar spoke to the state’s chief secretary Malay De, who said instructions were being issued to the Kolkata Police commissioner to handle the situation. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee was away on a trip to Delhi.
The governor rushed to the campus after vice-chancellor Suranjan Das said he would prefer resigning to calling police to the campus. Das and pro-VC Pradip Ghosh were admitted to a hospital close after both complained of high blood pressure. This happened before Dhankar’s arrival. The governor, also the chancellor of the university, reached the campus by 6.45 pm.
When Dhankar boarded his vehicle along with the minister around 7 pm, students sat in front of his convoy and said they would allow it to move only after Supriyo apologised. After the car was blocked beyond 8 pm, the policemen quietly and suddenly cleared the area behind the vehicle allowing the driver to reverse, turn around sharply, and speed off.
Jadavpur University is an institution that has traditionally been dominated by Left and ultra-Left politics. A few agitators told the minister that they were “Naxals’.
The incident has been criticised by all parties including BJP, the Left, the Trinamool Congress and the Congress. “The incident is ample evidence of the worsening law and order situation... The TMC government and the police allowed this to happen,” BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvergiya told PTI.
CPI(M) politburo member Mohammed Salim alleged that the BJP and the RSS are trying to vitiate the atmosphere of the state.