Posters calling for ‘azadi’ for Kashmir, Manipur and Nagaland were put up at Jadavpur University (JU) only to be torn down by ABVP activists, who allegedly vandalised the university complex on Wednesday.
The posters had been signed by a group called ‘RADICAL’ and described by both the Jadavpur University Students Union (JUSU) and VC as a ‘fringe’ group allegedly responsible for raising ‘pro-Afzal’ slogans at a rally on Tuesday.
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“Hume kya chahiye – Azadi. Kashmir ki Azadi. Manipur ki Azadi. Nagaland ki Azadi (We demand freedom. Kashmir’s freedom. Manipur’s freedom. Nagaland’s freedom),” one of the posters said. Some members of the group, on Tuesday, had said that they had raised slogans in favour of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru during the protest the recent arrest of JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar.
A postgraduate student of Film Studies at the university, who is also a member of Radical, explained, “If merely questioning the manner in which Afzal Guru was executed by the state amounts to treason or sedition, then the obvious question to be asked is how BJP is in an alliance with PDP in Kashmir. PDP openly says that Afzal Guru was a martyr. When we say we want ‘azadi’, it begins with the freedom to discuss these things freely and liberally.”
Students said that ABVP activists turned up at the campus at 2:30 pm while chanting slogans like ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ and ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and began tearing down posters, banners and threatened other students.
“At about 2:30 pm, we were having an Arts Faculty Students Union general body meeting, when we saw that a group of 50-60 people marching near the gate number four of the campus. They were chanting slogans like “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, “Jai Shri Ram” and other slogans which were totally in keeping with the RSS ideology. Most of the people in that group were not familiar faces. We thought that it must be a peaceful march so let it be. However, we decided to form a human chain around the gate to ward off any untoward incident. At around 5:30, these same group of people rushed from the gate and started vandalising the campus. They tore down posters, banners and started threatening the students with dire consequences,” says Udayan Chandra, a third year student of department of Economics and a member of AFSU.
Students added that the campus was tense after ABVP, who had previously demanded the arrest of the students who had allegedly raised the ‘pro-Afzal’, had convened a meeting at JU on Thursday.
“The campus is already tense because of the fact that ABVP has called a meeting here tomorrow. We were expecting some sort of violence and sure enough at about 5:30, a group of about 50 students rushed to the campus. I could identify some of them as students who has an affiliation with ABVP. They just went about tearing posters, challenging other students to stop them. Had we not handled it with a cool head, this could have turned really ugly,” says Supratil Sur Roy, a second year student of Film Studies.
The vice-chancellor of the university Suranjan Das, said that the posters had been put up by ‘fringe elements’.
“These are some fringe elements. I met the students’ union leaders in the morning and they told me that they disassociate themselves with all anti-national slogans,” vice-chancellor Suranjan Das said. He added that as VC it was his “responsibility” to ensure that students have their “right to protest” and that their “freedom of speech and expression is protected.” He added that in a university, “the police has no role and that he “will never call police in the campus.”
Echoing Das, the JUSU maintained that the majority view of students was not reflected by the posters. Sounak Mukherjee, leader of Forum of Art Students–a students union said, “We are against such slogans. These were fringe elements and don’t represent the entire student body”
Meanwhile, the SFI state unit also distanced themselves from the slogans that were raised during the protest.
“The SFI is always against terrorism communalism and divisive forces. It is inappropriate to raise such slogans, which directly or indirectly support terrorism. Presently, there is a tendency to polarize the nation on the basis of radical nationalism and attempts are being made to malign the Left parties. In such a scenario such irresponsible statements will only strengthen the fascist forces and weaken the student’s movement,” said the state secretary of the students wing of the CPI(M) Debojyoti Das.