Jadavpur University officials have been holed up in their administrative building since Thursday, after students began agitating over the state government’s move to make student unions “apolitical”. The sit-in demonstration has kept Vice-Chancellor Suranjan Das, the registrar and other officials confined in the varsity’s administrative building since 2 pm on Thursday. Appealing to students to end their agitation, Das asked them to understand that the university was compelled to abide by the state government’s order.
“The state government has issued the order, and being a state university, we have to accept it. The students must understand that we have to abide by it. There can be various opinions regarding the order, but there are democratic ways to convey it. Such protest by students destroys the normalcy of the university and campus,” he said. The vice-chancellor had on Saturday barred officials from leaving Aurobindo Bhavan, the administrative building of the university, after students squatted at the entrance shouting slogans against the authorities.
However, students maintained that the protest was peaceful. “We have not gheraoed the officials. They are free to go. But they will have to go through us,” an agitating student said.
Students belonging to the three students’ unions at the university staged a sit-in demonstration on Thursday, demanding that the Executive Council (EC) — the highest-decision making body of Jadavpur University — reject the government order and continue holding students’ union polls. They also demanded that the EC adopt a resolution
and recognise the government order as “undemocratic and unacceptable”.
“We openly reject the state government’s order to turn students’ union into students’ council. We had placed our demand before the EC that it must recognise the order as undemocratic and unacceptable, keeping in mind that all university stakeholders are against the order. Unless the authorities accept our demands, we will not lift our agitation,” Sounak Mukhopadhyay, a first-year postgraduate student of the Film Studies department, told The Indian Express.
The state government, on the other hand, asked agitating students to lift their protest, making it clear that there was no question of withdrawing the order “We cannot accept their demands under any circumstances, even if they continue the protest for a thousand days. The bill was passed in the Assembly, and the Governor of West Bengal gave his consent. The way university teachers are being held hostage inside the campus is inhuman and goes against the law. We will appeal to the students to end this kind of protest,” said state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee.
In accordance with the West Bengal Universities and Colleges (Administration and Regulation) Bill, 2017, which was passed in the state Assembly in February, the state government had issued an order in June directing all universities to make students’ unions apolitical and empower a teacher at each university to handle union funds.
The government also proposed student councils, modelled after the St Xavier’s College system, to replace the unions.The EC had on Thursday met at the university to discuss academic and administrative matters, including the structure of the proposed students’ council.
There are three students’ unions at Jadavpur University — The Arts faculty students union ruled by SFI, and the Engineering and Science unions ruled by independent student groups Democratic Students’ Front (DSF) and We The Independent(WTI), respectively.