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Jadavpur University V-C under siege as stir against student union reforms grows

The government had charted the reforms in the wake of violent clashes during student union elections at colleges across West Bengal, including Kolkata.

kolkata Updated: Aug 11, 2017 19:11 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Jadavpur University,Vice chancellor,Student union
Jadavpur University has witnessed many such protests in the past. (Subhendu Ghosh/HT Photo)

Jadavpur University (JU) has been on the boil since Thursday evening, with members of the arts, science and engineering student bodies picketing an administrative building on its campus. The university vice chancellor and a number of other senior officials were still trapped there till Friday afternoon.

The protesters are agitating against reforms by the Mamata Banerjee government that aim to curb the powers of student union members. “Student unions should consist of elected representatives. We will not agree to a students’ council with nominated members,” said Jubi Saha, one of the agitating students.

The government had charted the reforms in the wake of clashes during student union elections at colleges across West Bengal, including Kolkata. However, both JU and Presidency University were untouched by violence.

JU students have demanded that the government instruct other varsities to follow their example of peacefully conducting union elections, instead of imposing the reforms on them. They also want the vice-chancellor to tell the government that the JU executive committee has decided to refrain from enacting the proposed changes.

However, the university authorities seemed disinclined to accept the students’ demands. “A democratically elected government has made these rules. We will apprise the government of the students’ objections but we cannot oppose it,” JU vice chancellor Suranjan Das said.

Education minister Partha Chatterjee seemed just as rigid on the government’s stand. “Let them agitate. The rules will not change. The decision has been taken,” he said.

The reforms stipulate that a college lecturer be appointed as the student council president while another member of the teaching staff becomes its treasurer. Each class can elect a single representative, instead of the current practice of voting in two.

Campuses across the state have witnessed clashes during the elections, with the student wing of the ruling party being accused of perpetrating violence in most cases. Incidentally, the Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad has failed to make inroads in both JU and Presidency – the most prestigious institutes in the state – until now.

There have been many instances of JU students picketing officials in the past. The Hok Kolorob movement a couple of years ago ended with the resignation of its then vice chancellor, Abhijit Chakraborty.

The Jadavpur University Teachers’ Association has supported the students’ movement.

Opposition parties, on the other hand, said everything would have been alright if the ruling party was able to control its students’ wing. “Since 2011, elections could not be held in most colleges and universities across West Bengal because Trinamool would not allow candidates from rival parties to file their nominations. Students should be allowed to contest without threats,” said Madhuja Sen Roy, president of the Student Federation of India’s Bengal unit.

First Published: Aug 11, 2017 14:36 IST