Presidency College, the cradle of Left politics, convulsed on Wednesday in the aftermath of the BJP’s student wing making its presence heard off-campus, during a freshers’ welcome.
Late on Tuesday, some students of Presidency, along with those from at least three prominent government colleges — all owing allegiance to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) — allegedly interrupted a function at Hindu Hostel, organised by the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), and raised pro-Hindutva slogans.
“Atal Bihari Vajpayee zindabad… Long live Narendra Modi… Gujarat shows the way…,” they shouted, witnesses later said.
“We were stunned when we saw them clambering on to the dais and shouting the slogans. It’s a shame, because the freshers’ welcome had nothing to do with politics,” said Sujoy Roy, general secretary of the SFI-controlled Presidency College Students Union (PCSU).
This controversy has erupted months after the CPM’s student wing wrested power on campus for the first time in the college’s history and close on the heels of a fracas at Hindu Hostel that had pushed it to the brink of closure.
With the apparent support of the CPM headquarters, the SFI went into an overdrive on Wednesday, organising anti-ABVP meetings on the Presidency campus and outside the old Hindu Hostel. Later, the SFI functionaries submitted a memorandum to principal Amitava Chatterjee, demanding action against the students involved in Tuesday’s incident.
Moinul Islam, SFI president and a third-year student of political science in Presidency College, said: “We have also submitted a report to the state SFI leadership and sought a line of action.”
An ABVP supporter studying at Presidency, who chose to identify himself as “JB”, said the SFI was trying to blow Tuesday night’s incident out of proportion in a bid to harass the ABVP followers. “There is nothing wrong with a student supporting a particular political party,” he said.
But on Wednesday, everything else took a backseat at Presidency. With an air of tension hanging heavy over the campus, there was a large police deployment as a “precautionary measure” in a college that has churned out chief ministers and now has on its rolls the likes of Suchetana Bhattacharjee and Ajanta Biswas, daughters of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and state CPM secretary Anil Biswas, respectively.
No Presidency College official was readily available for comment on the issue, as Wednesday also saw the introduction of two post-graduate courses — applied economics and Hindi.