| Signs of protest at Jadavpur University
The protest-and-punishment saga unfolding at Jadavpur University will witness another tumultuous chapter on Thursday with the engineering and technology department embarking on an indefinite relay hunger strike to condemn the authorities' decision to suspend five senior students.
The faculty of engineering and technology students' union (Fetsu) on Wednesday intensified its agitation with a five-hour sit-in on the campus, even as first-year students boycotted their semester exams. Students of the science faculty continued to steer clear of the classroom, along with some arts sections.
'After a series of general body meetings we have decided to go on an indefinite relay hunger strike. We will fast in 24-hour shifts starting Thursday,' said Fetsu general secretary Amit Chakraborty.
'We will also send a deputation to the governor, as chancellor of the university, seeking his intervention. We are contemplating legal action, but that will wait till the authorities formally hand over the suspension letters,' he added.
The boycott of the semester examinations continues, though final-year students have been exempted, confirmed Fetsu office-bearers.
'On Wednesday, none of the first-year students appeared for their examinations on either campus. We want the authorities to know that the students still stand united against their malicious attempts to harass us,' said Chakraborty.
During the day's demonstration, Fetsu members questioned the varsity executive council's decision to dole out different suspension sentences for the same offence.
Sudipta Sarkar, who was the general secretary of Fetsu during the September 2003 agitation, has been barred from the campus for four semesters. Yet, Arnab Roy Choudhury and Samrat Roychoudhury have been suspended for a single semester. Samrat had taken the matter to court, while Arnab had written an apology to the authorities.
'Each of the five students has been suspended for different terms depending on the gravity and nature of offence committed,' said registrar Rajat Bandopadhyay, dismissing talk of the executive council's decision being malicious.
'We decry the authorities' vindictive attitude towards the students. The September 2003 agitation was not the first of its kind witnessed by Jadavpur University. There have been more serious and violent agitations in the past, so there is no reason to treat this one as an exception,' said the Fetsu general secretary.
The fact that 'five students were singled out from a crowd of 250' is being seen as the authorities' move to 'warn the student community by meting out exemplary punishment to student leaders'.