Student: Sanjukta Basu
Course: Architecture, 2nd year
At gherao: Active participant
Basu said: Her parents do not support this. Can any guardian support it? We do not approve of it but children now go out to pursue higher studies and they don’t listen to us.
This morning, when I saw the news on TV, I asked my son to tell her not to participate in
anything like this
Student: Chiranjeet Ghosh
Course: Architecture, 4th year
At gherao: Active participant and part of the negotiating team
A lady who identified
herself as Ghosh’s mother said on the phone: I am not aware of what is happening…. But if what you are saying is true, it should not happen. Something like this should not happen in an educational institute.
Parents toil hard to educate their children. This is not
what they expect them to do
Student: Souvik Mukherjee
Course: Mechanical engineering, 4th year
At gherao: General
secretary of Fetsu, the union spearheading the protest. Also
a member of the anti-ragging committee
A lady who identified
herself as Mukherjee’s mother said: Sorry,
I can’t say anything on this.
…can any guardian support?
Calcutta, Sept. 20: A grandmother said she was shocked, a mother wondered how any parent could approve of it and a student said parents are “like that only”.
The three do not share a bloodline but a common link in Jadavpur University, where students held the vice-chancellor and two other officials hostage for over 50 hours. The captors were demanding that the punishment of two fourth-year students found guilty of torturing a junior be revoked. The marathon gherao was replaced this evening with a relay hunger strike.
The Telegraph tried to find out how the families of the agitators reacted to their audacious demand and the torment on the vice-chancellor and the others.
Shefali Basu in Konnagar did not approve of her granddaughter Sanjukta participating in a gherao in the university.
“Things like this did not happen in our times,” said the 77-year-old lady. “I am old and, for me, what’s happening is not right,” she said.
Around the time she spoke, Sanjukta was among students sitting on the stairs leading to the university’s administrative building and chanting: “Jadavpur-er teen ragger/EC, VC, registrar (JU has three raggers/EC, VC, registrar).” EC stands for the executive council, which has to formally ratify the disciplinary action.
Unlike some parents who did not want to comment, the septuagenarian did not beat about the bush. “Her parents do not support this. Can any guardian support it?” wondered Basu, the grandmother.
“We do not approve of it but children now go out to pursue higher studies and they don’t listen to us. This morning, when I saw the news on television channels, I asked my son to tell her not to participate in anything like this,” she added.
The mother of fourth-year student Souvik Mukherjee, who was among those leading the protests, said: “Sorry, I can’t say anything on this.” The call was terminated then.
Mechanical engineering student Souvik is the general secretary of the Faculty of Engineering and Technology Students’ Union (Fetsu). On the campus, he captained the armtwist brigade, refusing to relent until the authorities absolved the ragging accused of wrongdoing.
In Barasat, Chiranjeet Ghosh’s mother was unaware of the goings-on at the university.
“If what you are saying is true, it should not happen,” said the lady. “Something like this should not happen in an educational institute. Parents toil hard to ensure education for their children. So, this is not what they expect them to do.”
Another mother, whose daughter is pursuing international relations, reacted with dismay. “If she is indeed a part of all this, I would be very upset. I had not wanted her to study in Bengal at all,” she said.
When this newspaper checked again and called the lady back to say her daughter was actually not among the protesters, she said: “You almost gave me a heart attack!”
Another mother sought time to find out if her son was taking part in the protests but did not take subsequent calls.
Second-year student Chiranjeet Guha was mobilising the hostel residents to join in. Asked how his parents had reacted to his new role, Guha said: “My parents have said what all parents usually say. They have told me not to be part of this gherao, but I am a part of it.”
Sociologist Prasanta Roy felt the students were taking advantage of the fact that “teachers are restrained by the ethics of teaching and affection”.
“This agitation is a total reversal of the power equation. The students were telling TV reporters that the authorities could leave the building trampling upon them but they (the VC and the rest) won’t because they are restrained by the ethics of teaching and affection. Nothing stops students from flexing their muscles. The teachers can only wait hoping the students will relent when they get tired,” Roy said.
Most of these students who are now spitting fire will line up for multinational jobs in a few years and learn to toe the authority’s line, said Roy. “If these students were to join, say, an office in Sector V, where there is no space to protest and the whip of the market is on them, they will not resort to something like this. But in a university, where they are getting the freedom, they will misuse it.”
Some of the teachers of the university hesitated to condemn the agitation because they said the students were “not disrespectful towards the teachers but their grievances were directed towards the administration”.
Among those who spent over 50 hours cooped in their offices were vice-chancellor Souvik Bhattacharyya, pro-vice-chancellor Siddhartha Dutta and registrar Pradip Ghosh, all over 50. Doctors had to be summoned last night and this evening to treat two of them after they complained of uneasiness.
The students climbed down around 7.30pm today, allegedly after it dawned on some of their leaders that keeping up the momentum over the weekend could be a tall order.
“In JU, such protests usually end on Friday evenings. Many of the protesters who have been mounting the nightlong vigil live in the hostel and go home over the weekend,” said a teacher who did not want to be named.
In 2010, a section of the students had gheraoed 15 members of the executive council for over 52 hours to protest the installation of CCTV cameras on the campus. That protest, too, had ended on a Friday evening.
After calling off the gherao this evening, the students resorted to a relay hunger strike.
The students contended that the authorities were calling “an altercation” between two students an act of ragging. “It’s not a case of ragging, it’s an interaction (sic),” said one of the posters today.
The UGC guidelines, framed following a Supreme Court order, are clear on what constitutes ragging. “Any conduct by any student or students whether by words spoken or written or by an act which has the effect of teasing, treating or handling with rudeness a fresher or any other students....
“Indulging in rowdy or indisciplined activities by any student or students which causes or is likely to cause annoyance, hardship, physical or psychological harm or to raise fear or apprehension thereof in any fresher or any other student.”
The victim, a second-year student, had lodged a complaint over the UGC’s anti-ragging helpline.