Police Assault Students, Demand for Jadavpur VC's Resignation Grows
KOLKATA: Several students of the prestigious Jadavpur University here were hospitalised after police allegedly beat them up early Wednesday for laying siege to the vice chancellor's office seeking a fresh inquiry into the purported sexual harassment of a female student.
With the authorities drawing all-round flak for the police crackdown in one of the foremost centres of academic excellence in the country, state Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim conceded that police should have been "more restrained".
According to the KPC Medical College and Hospital, nine students injured in the assault were admitted. "Six of them have been released. All three admitted now are stable," said a hospital official.
While 35 students were arrested and later released by police, the protesters alleged "outsiders" teamed up with the security personnel in the assault in which many female students were even molested.
Students, teachers, alumni, eminent personalities and political leaders sought the resignation of vice chancellor Abhijit Chakrabarty, who claimed he was compelled to call the police, fearing for his life.
Rubbishing the students' claims that police assaulted them, Chakrabarty said policemen and he himself were under attack.
"The students attacked me, my security. I had to call the police, fearing for my life," claimed Chakrabarty, who was confined in his office along with other top university officials since Tuesday by students demanding a fresh inquiry into the accusation that a student was sexually harassed on the campus last month.
Chakrabarty described the siege as a "conspiracy where many outsiders were involved".
Education Minister Chatterjee also disapproved of the vice chancellor's confinement.
"Students should behave like students. One cannot support the gherao of the vice chancellor," he said.
As the issue showballed into a major controversy, there was a beeline of visitors at the doorstep of Governor and ex-officio university chancellor K.N. Tripathi.
Among them was the education minister, who claimed the vice chancellor was hospitalised.
"The vice chancellor has fallen ill in the aftermath of the incident and has been admitted to a private hospital. I have requested him to submit a report regarding the incident and the state education department will look into it," Chatterjee told reporters after meeting Tripathi.
Jadavpur University Teachers Association (JUTA) members also met Tripathi seeking his intervention.
JUTA secretary Nilanjana Gupta demanded that the vice chancellor step down as he has "lost the moral right to continue in the post".
The BJP too submitted a memorandum to Tripathi asking for Chakrabarty's removal as well as a probe into the alleged sexual harassment of the student.
Besides registering a complaint against university officials for the assault and alleged molestation, students and teachers later took out a protest rally seeking Chakrabarty's resignation.
A host of eminent personalities, including actor Kaushik Sen and former Maoist leader Ashim Chatterjee, participated in the march.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Suburban Division) Santosh Pandey confirmed to IANS about the complaint against Chakrabarty.
Students claimed they were protesting "peacefully" when police "dragged them out" from the university's administrative building - the Aurobindo Bhavan - around 2 a.m.
"Suddenly at night, the lights inside Aurobindo Bhavan went out and the policemen suddenly attacked us. They picked and dragged us out. Some threw slippers at us and tore our clothes. They pushed a couple of women students into the crowd," said a student.
The social media went berserk in protest against the incident. Some students uploaded videos where cops along with others are seen mercilessly beating the students and even dragging a few of them.
Many of the students claimed the "outsiders" were members of the students wing of the ruling Trinamool Congress.
Trinamool Chhatra Parishad chief Shankudeb Panda, however, said the charge was "baseless". But he criticised the students for confining the vice chancellor.
The opposition leaders minced no words in pulling up the government and the vice chancellor.
Leader of Opposition and CPI-M veteran Surjya Kanta Mishra accused Chakrabarty of behaving like a "government spokesman" and said he should go for the sake of the university.
State Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said "anarchy" has become all pervasive under Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Meanwhile, four Leftist student unions called for a state-wide strike in all educational institutions Thursday to protest the police crackdown.