The vice-chancellor of Calcutta University has suggested shifting students out of the agitation-wracked College Street campus because he can’t evict those who won’t let them study.
“We have failed to curb agitations by employees’ associations despite repeated warnings that any such programme should be held without disrupting the campus atmosphere. It is my personal opinion that we should think about shifting the departments on the College Street campus to our other six campuses to spare students the regular disruptions,” Suranjan Das said on Monday.
Last Tuesday, rival Trinamul Congress unions led by Naxalite-turned-party leader Dola Sen and MLA Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay had got into a scuffle and hollered their demands over microphones right in front of the vice-chancellor’s chamber. Nobody dared stand up to them.
Vice-chancellor Das said the employees’ unions had ignored every official notice to conduct their activities outside the College Street campus, leaving him with little option but to suggest relocating the 13 departments to the other university campuses.
The historical College Street campus is home to some century-old language courses, apart from the commerce, library science and journalism and mass communication departments. It is also the first campus located east of the Suez to teach European classics, English literature, European and Indian philosophy and Occidental and Oriental history.
Many teachers and students said it was ridiculous to even suggest that the classrooms be shifted elsewhere to make room for the politics of disruption.
“The proposal to shift some of the oldest departments to other campuses should be dropped immediately given the historical background of the institution, if not anything else,” said a veteran teacher in the department of Pali.
The university authorities had vowed to initiate stern action against those who disrupted classes last Thursday. Till Monday evening, they hadn’t constituted even an inquiry committee.
Manmatha Ranjan Biswas of the Dola Sen-led Sara Bangla Siksha Bandhu Samity, who has been accused of heckling MLA Sobhandeb that day, claimed he had nothing to do with the incident.
Sobhandeb, who heads the Calcutta University Employees’ Association, insisted Biswas “was at the forefront of the assault”.
Those caught in the line of fire said it was unfortunate that the university authorities would rather uproot the students than punish the perpetrators of the rumpus on the campus.
The College Street campus, also called Ashutosh Siksha Prangan, spans nearly three acres and is a heritage site. The Pali department, which was set up 105 years ago, is the oldest of its kind in the country. The other courses that are more than 100 years old include Arabian, Persian, Sanskrit and linguistics.
“We have a large number of scholars from abroad visiting our department every year for research on Pali, Sanskrit and Persian. These departments must not be shifted to any other place,” said a Sanskrit teacher.
Although several departments have shifted over the years, the original campus on College Street has remained the hub of Calcutta University. “Nobody has previously spoken about stopping all academic activities on the College Street campus. Shifting departments elsewhere just because the authorities can’t curb unlawful protests will be a blot on the university,” said a former professor of English.
Vice-chancellor Das admitted that his suggestion wouldn’t be easy to implement. “Maybe a future administrator will execute this, letting the College Street campus operate only as the administrative headquarters,” he said.
Das has three-and-a-half years left in his second term as vice-chancellor.
“I don’t know how this can be realised. All the campuses were built factoring in optimum space utilisation for certain number of departments. The Rajabazar Science College campus, known as Rashbehari Siksha Prangan, has 14 science departments. Ballygunge Science College houses 16 departments. They are not in a position to accommodate any new department,” a CU official said.