Chancellor M.K. Narayanan is authorised to revoke the punishment to two fourth-year Jadavpur University students found guilty of ragging but such a step is without precedent, higher education department officials said.
UGC rules stipulate that a university must take into consideration the views of the chancellor before pardoning a student found guilty of ragging.
“It has been established that this is a case of ragging and the students found guilty will have to face punishment for the offence. Considering the UGC guidelines, we cannot backtrack now and relieve the students (of the charge),” said pro vice-chancellor Siddhartha Dutta, one of the officials gheraoed by protesting students for more than 50 hours.
The only option before the students is to appeal to the chancellor, whose decision the university will have to abide by, a JU official said.
The siege by students, which had started at 5pm on Wednesday, was lifted around 7.30pm on Friday. Vice-chancellor Souvik Bhattacharyya was among those held hostage by the protesters, who were demanding that the students punished for ragging be let off.
While the siege has been lifted, the protesters have started a relay hunger strike.
The decision to call off the 50-hour siege was apparently taken after those leading the protest realised that many students would not join an agitation over the weekend. “But that does not mean we will withdraw our demand. The authorities must refer back the case to the anti-ragging committee. The decision (to expel one student for a year and suspend another for six months) should be reconsidered,” Shouvik Mukherjee, one of the protesters, said.
Vice-chancellor Bhattacharya, who left the campus immediately after the siege ended, declined to comment on the agitation. Education minister Bratya Basu termed the siege “politics of blackmail” and urged the students not to take recourse to such practices.
“Students can have demands that might not be considered legitimate by the authorities. But the government will not support a students’ agitation where the vice-chancellor (and other officials) are in confinement for several hours at a stretch. This is a kind of blackmail,” Basu said at Bikash Bhavan.
Education department officials said there was little chance that the governor, who is away, would exercise his powers and pardon the guilty students if the protesters petitioned him on his return.
Narayanan has on several occasions expressed concern over indiscipline in educational institutions and publicly disapproved of the “gherao tactics” employed by students at Jadavpur University.
University officials said students had held the vice-chancellor and some of his colleagues hostage partly because they were aware that there was little chance of the chancellor being lenient with the duo punished for ragging.
The 50-hour siege would have displeased governor Narayanan even more. His reaction to an incident at Basirhat’s Kalinagar Mahavidyalaya on August 31 showed just what he thinks of students crossing the line.
“My take is that the students should be beaten up,” Narayanan had said on what he thought of SFI supporters allegedly assaulting the teacher-in-charge, Manoranjan Naskar.
A few days later, the governor was at a programme in National High School when a schoolboy asked him: “What is lacking in today’s youth?”
Narayanan replied: “What we lack today is perhaps the innate discipline. Discipline has taken the back seat in this era of liberalisation.”
In 2010, the former IPS officer had expressed his annoyance over a siege by students at JU. “Protest by all means but please don’t gherao,” the governor had said at the university’s convocation.
He was referring to a 52-hour gherao of 15 members of the executive council, including elderly teachers, in protest against the authorities’ decision to install CCTVs and make it mandatory for students to have identity cards.