Students lay siege to the VC’s office at JU on Thursday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Students at Jadavpur University held the vice-chancellor and senior officials hostage for over 24 hours, demanding that two students punished for ragging be absolved of the charge.
The agitation, a throwback to the protest at Christ Church Girls’ High School on September 12, has left parents and teachers wondering if the students were in fact fighting for a right to rag.
“How can we not punish students if they are found guilty of ragging when there is a Supreme Court ruling and also a strict directive from the University Grants Commission that no form of ragging should be allowed in any educational institution and those found guilty should be punished?” asked JU registrar Pradip Kumar Ghosh.
Ragging has been banned across the country and all higher education institutions are required to follow UGC regulations drawn up in 2009.
The JU authorities did not seek help from the administration to lift the gherao as they were keen to avoid police presence on the campus.
The students were sent feelers that they could appeal against the punishment to the chancellor. “The students were told they have time to appeal to the chancellor till next Tuesday and the university will act according to his advice... till then the penal measures will be kept in abeyance,” said a teacher.
But the students turned down the proposal at a general body meeting. “The decision itself is wrong. So there is no question of an appeal,” said an agitating student.
The students launched their protest soon after the punishment was announced on September 10. The anti-ragging committee set up by vice-chancellor Shouvik Bhattacharya found two students guilty — one of them was expelled for a year and the other suspended for six months.
The students had also tried to pressure the victim, a second-year student of the IT department, to withdraw the complaint. The victim refused, but requested a lighter punishment.
“Yes we did slap the second-year student and we also broke the window panes. But our intention was not ragging,” said a student participating in the gherao, which began on Wednesday afternoon.
“The allegation has been interpreted as ragging. There was a heated exchange between two groups of students and the two boys had no intention to assault him,” said another student.
A senior teacher of engineering at Bengal Engineering and Science University (Besu) questioned the reason behind the protest at JU. “Why should students come up with such a demand?”
Five second-year students at Besu were expelled for a year last month on charges of ragging a first-year student. A roving squad from the institute’s anti-ragging unit had approached the victim, who is from Bihar, based on a tip-off from campus guards.