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Bengal guv faces students’ protest at Kolkata varsity

PUBLISHED ON JAN 28, 2020 11:52 PM IST

Kolkata: A students’ protest forced West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar to leave the Calcutta University (CU) before the beginning of the varsity’s annual convocation on Tuesday. Dhankhar had to leave the Jadavpur University in similar circumstances last month when he had gone there to preside over its convocation.

Students at CU carrying posters against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens waved black flags at Dhankhar and raised “go back” slogans as soon as he arrived at the convocation venue. Dhankhar met Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee, upon whom the CU on Tuesday conferred honorary D Litt (honoris causa), before another group of students took the stage, raised slogans against Dhankhar and prompted the governor to leave the venue minutes before the convocation started.

The protesters kept insisting that Dhankhar does not deserve to be on the dais for the CU’s convocation as he is the Centre’s representative. They accused him of using his position to help the Bharatiya Janata Party’s agenda and showing disrespect to teachers and students.

CU vice chancellor (VC), Sonali Chakravarty Bandhopadhyay, unsuccessfully tried to convince the students to end their protests. “VC sought permission from Chancellor to proceed with the Convocation. In view of the enormous respect I have for Abhijit Banerjee and mindful of the reputation of the iconic Calcutta University, I accorded the same,” tweeted Dhankhar, who is also the CU’s chancellor. “Those who compromised culture and decorum need to be in a reflective mode.”

Since the governor had not signed the DLitt certificate to be handed over to Banerjee, students allowed Dhankhar to reach the CU auditorium’s green room. Dhankhar signed the certificate in the green room and left as the students vowed not to allow him to take the dais.

There was no clarity until Sunday whether Dhankhar would be invited for the convocation, especially because education minister, Partha Chatterjee, had earlier said it could happen without the governor.

A CU official, who did not want to be named, said an invitation was sent to Dhankhar on Monday primarily because he had not signed Banerjee’s certificate even though he had approved the decision to confer the DLitt upon him.

Dhankhar tweeted his pictures with Banerjee and said, “The actions of those who created or stage managed unseemly spectacle would resonate for long in the ears of the cultured people of WB [West Bengal].”

Dhankhar praised Banerjee and called him a “man of sterling qualities and disarming grace”. He added he was greatly touched by his modest approach and depth.

The West Bengal government in December curtailed the governor’s powers as the chancellor of universities by notifying a set of new rules governing his interaction with VCs. The chancellor cannot now have a say in the day-to-day affairs of universities, nor can advice university officials directly.

All communication between the chancellor and senior university officials will also have to be routed through the state’s higher education department.

Reacting to the incident, state education minister Partha Chatterjee said that the governor needed to introspect why he was constantly facing student agitations. “Maintaining the sanctity of a chair is the responsibility of the person occupying it,” Chatterjee said.

BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh, however, sought Chatterjee’s resignation. “Anarchy has gripped campuses of all colleges and universities in the state. Why is the education minister still holding on to his chair?” said Ghosh.

In a separate incident, Trinamool Congress minister Nirmal Maji faced agitation during the foundation day celebration of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.

(With agency inputs)

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