Kolkata, Sep 17 :
Several students of the prestigious Jadavpur University here had to be 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, a senior state minister conceded that the police should have been “more restrained”.
While 35 students were arrested but later released by police, there have been allegations that “outsiders” had teamed up with the security personnel in assaulting the students in which several of the female pupils were even molested.
Police crackdown has attracted widespread criticism and condemnation with students, teachers, alumnus, eminent personalities and political leaders demanding the resignation of vice-chancellor (VC) Abhijit Chakrabarty, who claimed he was compelled to call police fearing for his life.
Rubbishing students’ claims that they were assaulted by police, Chakrabarty said that instead the police and he himself were under attack.
“Police did not assault them. Rather 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 later said he has informed Education Minister Partha Chatterjee about the incident and claimed the gherao to be a “conspiracy where many outsiders were involved”.
Chatterjee, however, disapproved of the VC’s confinement. “Students should behave like students. One cannot support the gherao of the VC,” he said.
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 Naxal 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 the police “dragged them out” from the varsity’s administrative building — the Aurobindo Bhawan — at around 2 a.m.
“Suddenly at night, the lights inside Aurobindo Bhawan 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 Jadavpur University Teachers Association (JUTA) has also spoken out. Its secretary Nilanjana Gupta demanded the VC to step down as he has “lost the moral right to continue on the post”.
JUTA members later in the day met Governor K.N. Tripathi also the university’s chancellor seeking his intervention in the matter.
The BJP too submitted a memorandum to Tripathi seeking Chakrabarty’s removal as well as probe into the alleged sexual harassment of the student.
The social media has gone 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 have 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 VC.
Senior Trinamool leader and Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said he has talked to the education minister to know about the incident from the VC and admitted the police ought to have been “more restrained”.
According to KPC Medical College and Hospital, nine students injured in the assault were admitted in the facility. “Six of them have been released. All three admitted now are stable,” said a hospital official.
Leader of opposition and CPI-M veteran Surjya Kanta Mishra said Chakrabarty should go for the sake of the university.
“He appeared more like a government spokesperson while he denying the merciless assault on the students. The early he goes the better it is for the university,” said Mishra after visiting the injured students.
State Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury too minced no words in taking the government to task for the incident saying “anarchy” has become all pervasive under Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s rule.