Monday, 30th October 2017

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‘Dumbfounded, agonised and threatened’

What I saw on TV chilled me to the bones

By Subhankar Chowdhury, Debraj Mitra and Snehal Sengupta in Calcutta
  • Published 8.01.20, 3:27 AM
  • Updated 8.01.20, 3:27 AM
  • 2 mins read
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A protest rally in front of Presidency University on Monday Pictures by Bishwarup Dutta and Pradip Sanyal

Several rallies were held across the city on Tuesday to protest the attack on students of Jawaharlal Nehru University on Sunday, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens. The Telegraph spoke to some of the protesters

As many as 100 teachers of Presidency University issued a signed statement condemning the violence unleashed on several campuses over the past few weeks. It is reproduced below

A Collective Statement Condemning the Violent Attack on Academic Institutions

In the past month/s, the students, faculty, and non-teaching staff of different academic institutions such as Jamia Millia Islamia University, Aligarh Muslim University, University of Hyderabad, Jadavpur University and Jawaharlal Nehru University have been brutally attacked by armed miscreants who entered the university premises and even hostels to terrify the academic establishment into submission. Such violence, perpetrated in the name of sectarianism, bigotry and authoritarianism has left us dumbfounded, agonised and feeling threatened.

The brutalisation of students and the repeated attacks on academics and scholars are against the fundamental principles of a democratic society and militate against the spirit of the Indian Constitution.

As members of the civil society and teacher/mentors of students and scholars we are watching with extreme concern the situation that is unfolding before us today.

We are anguished by the inertia of those who should protect and safeguard us, even as we are dismayed by what is a clear and concerted attack on the autonomy and integrity of the university.

We, the faculty of Presidency University, unequivocally condemn all forms of violence against the academic establishment and we enjoin upon the political class and state agencies to uphold the law, ensure impartial inquiry, bring the miscreants to book, and protect the university as a space for critical and thinking minds.

Anupam Das, 48, and Anwesha Das, a Class VII student, from Howrah Chanting azaadi, father and daughter marched together on College Street
Anupam Das, 48, and Anwesha Das, a Class VII student, from Howrah Chanting azaadi, father and daughter marched together on College Street

“My wife would also have come but she is recovering from surgery,” Anupam said. The theatre professional said the protest against the current government at the Centre was like a “second war of Independence”. “What I saw on television on Sunday chilled me to the bones,” said Anwesha.

Kriti Ray, a Bijoygarh resident pursuing MPhil in economics at JNU She has come to Calcutta to visit her ailing grandfather and was not in the hostel during the attack on Sunday. On Tuesday, she walked in the rally from College Street to Jorasanko
Kriti Ray, a Bijoygarh resident pursuing MPhil in economics at JNU She has come to Calcutta to visit her ailing grandfather and was not in the hostel during the attack on Sunday. On Tuesday, she walked in the rally from College Street to Jorasanko

I am seething with anger at what happened on the campus where masked goons hit students and teachers with rods. I am, however, happy to see so many people here out on the streets to protest. This is what my country is and this is what we stand for…. my heart is there with my peers who were beaten up and I want to go back to the campus as soon as possible.

Majid Lone (right) 22, is from Kashmir and is pursuing graduation from a college in Calcutta He walked in the rally from College Street to Jorasanko
Majid Lone (right) 22, is from Kashmir and is pursuing graduation from a college in Calcutta He walked in the rally from College Street to Jorasanko

Campuses are being targeted because the attackers are afraid of students’ unity. One thing must be clear—being anti-government is not being anti-national.

Shreya Bhattacharyya, a first-year student of Vidyasagar College Her semester exams began on Tuesday. After the paper finished at 1pm, she did not head home but joined a rally from Hazra to Nizam Palace
Shreya Bhattacharyya, a first-year student of Vidyasagar College Her semester exams began on Tuesday. After the paper finished at 1pm, she did not head home but joined a rally from Hazra to Nizam Palace

Ideally, I should be busy now preparing for my next exam on January 10. But given what happened at JNU, I decided to join the protest and fight for a bigger cause.

Pallab Mandal He suffers from a congenital problem in his left foot and finds it difficult to walk for long. The postgraduate student of international relations at Jadavpur University walked the 2.5km stretch from the Hazra crossing to Nizam Palace on AJC Bose Road
Pallab Mandal He suffers from a congenital problem in his left foot and finds it difficult to walk for long. The postgraduate student of international relations at Jadavpur University walked the 2.5km stretch from the Hazra crossing to Nizam Palace on AJC Bose Road

This is the first time that I am walking in a protest march. I could not remain silent after watching the brutality at JNU. These ABVP goons are not sparing even the girls’ hostel.

Joyoshree, a fourth-year student of engineering at the College of Leather Technology Her semester exams start on Thursday but instead of being home busy with last-minute preparations, she was shouting slogans at Hazra
Joyoshree, a fourth-year student of engineering at the College of Leather Technology Her semester exams start on Thursday but instead of being home busy with last-minute preparations, she was shouting slogans at Hazra

It’s time that I set my priorities to show solidarity with fellow students who were mercilessly beaten up. If not now, when will we protest? If a united fight is not put up, they would feel emboldened.

Benoy Krishna Dasgupta, 75 He has a pacemaker implanted in his heart. The elderly man congratulated students at Hazra for “protesting against tyranny” and walked 200m to lend his support
Benoy Krishna Dasgupta, 75 He has a pacemaker implanted in his heart. The elderly man congratulated students at Hazra for “protesting against tyranny” and walked 200m to lend his support

State oppression is nothing new but the manner in which the student community is being targeted and the brazen nature of the attacks are appaling. Even emergency was not this bad.