Education minister Partha Chatterjee has said student leaders who are no longer students should stay out of campuses and, even if let in for any reason, not misuse the opportunity to trigger or lead a demonstration.
“Universities are seats of learning, not protest,” Chatterjee said at Calcutta University during a felicitation by the Trinamul-affiliated college and university professors’ association on Monday.
The minister didn’t name anyone but it wasn’t a coincidence that the caveat came at the institution where Shankudeb Panda, the chief of the Trinamul Congress’s student wing, had led a sit-in by around 80 students on July 9. Panda and party shouted slogans and forced the cancellation of a meeting of the Syndicate, the university’s highest decision-making body.
“Those who aren’t students any longer have no reason to be on the campus. Student leaders can, of course, visit their alma mater with the vice-chancellor’s permission but they shouldn’t stage any protest on the campus,” he said.
“If large numbers of supporters assemble, decency is lost. If they have to meet the vice-chancellor, a small team comprising five to 10 members should do so with prior appointment.”
Panda, the rising Trinamul star who has Mamata Banerjee’s blessings, was outside Calcutta University’s main gate with more than 300 supporters even as minister Chatterjee was making the point inside.
He was there not to greet the education minister but apparently to keep watch on CPM state secretary Biman Bose, who had gone to College Square — just across the road — to meet School Service Commission candidates protesting the lack of jobs.
When Metro contacted minister Chatterjee later to ask if his views had anything to do with the Trinamul Congress Chhatra Parishad’s agitation on July 9, he said: “I am saying it in respect of everything.”
The minister said there was no place for protesters screaming “Cholchhe na, cholbe na” in a seat of learning. The statement showed the education department’s concern over recent instances of student leaders who aren’t students creating a ruckus on campuses.
On July 8, Panda had led a protest at Rajabazar Science College and allegedly warned some teachers against blaming his supporters for attacks on their colleagues.
The next day, he stormed Calcutta University’s College Street campus to protest a memorandum to the vice-chancellor from the CPM-led teachers’ association.
Panda, who graduated from a CU-affiliated college several years ago, said on Monday evening: “I concur with what the education minister said. But organisations like the CPM teachers’ association should also abide by what he has suggested.”