| Students of Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur, leave their hostels on Friday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
How does a campus celebrate the news that it could be granted IIT status' By going on an indefinite strike, following ugly clashes between rival groups of students.
Months after the central government offered to upgrade the Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur, the institute was all but shut on Friday.
Other than a couple of post-graduate classes, all other academic activities were suspended indefinitely and over a thousand students were directed to vacate their hostels.
The clashes that continued through Thursday night left two students injured. A couple of professors who tried to intervene were heckled. A police contingent had to be called in to restore order.
The trouble on campus comes months before it plays host to an inspection team from the human resources development ministry, on which hinges the IIT status of Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur.
Of more immediate import is the disruption caused to placement interviews scheduled for Friday, that had to be cancelled.
'This is an unwanted incident that will have a negative effect. The prospective employers will have a bad impression of the institution' But I do not think this will hamper the process of granting IIT status to the institution,' said N.R. Bannerjee, vice-chancellor of the university.
'To maintain peace on campus, we have cancelled all undergraduate classes and told students to vacate the hostels immediately. The students have already met me and are apologetic. We have to talk to both the teachers as well as the students before normalcy can be restored,' added Bannerjee.
Trouble broke out around midnight in hostel number 11 when Mohor Sen, a third-year student of mechanical engineering, was allegedly beaten up by supporters of the 'opposition' Students Federation of India. Sen is a supporter of Independent Consolidation, the ruling students' union.
As word spread, some 300 students from all 13 hostels joined the fray, armed with hockey sticks, rods, bottles and brickbats.
'Everybody was running out of the hostels in the middle of the night, armed with whatever they could lay their hands on. As full-fledged clashes broke out, we were very scared,' said a third-year civil engineering student, before leaving for home on Friday afternoon.
Trouble intensified after Partha Sarathi Saha, a third-year student of IT and an SFI supporter was beaten up in a retaliatory strike near the Guest Hall in the middle of the sprawling campus. A number of computer sets, fans and glass panes of different hostels were damaged, with hostel number 14 the worst hit. The glass door and windows of the Guest Hall also took a beating.
When some professors tried to intervene, Manas Hira of the computer science department and Partha Pratim Chatterjee of metallurgy were heckled. The teachers called in the vice-chancellor, and then the police.
A.K. Ghosh, in-charge of students' affairs, said: 'It was mass infighting among the students. They were supposed to be inside the hostels after 10.30 pm, but' As a preventive measure, we have cancelled all undergraduate classes and told the students to vacate the hostels by 3 pm on Friday.'
The injured students were later taken to SSKM Hospital where they were discharged following treatment.