CHIEF MINISTER Mamata Banerjee on Thursday banned demonstrations at College Square — an area surrounded by educational institutions and considered the protest hub of Kolkata since the 19th century.
The move came after a student of Calcutta University (CU) told Mamata that they could not study due to the noise generated by demonstrations at College Square, located on the College Street. CU is located opposite the College Square, which houses swimming pools and a club.
During an administrative meeting at Chinsurah in Hooghly district on Thursday, a CU research scholar told Mamata that they could not study at the varsity due to noise. “We can’t study at the university as a lot of political meetings and rallies take place at College Square. Please do something about it,” the student told the CM. The government had invited the students to the administrative meeting.
To this, Mamata said: “I know that noise from the square disturbs students at the university. They are greatly inconvenienced. Meetings and rallies take place at the square at regular intervals. Parties should think about it. They do it. I also do it sometimes, but only once or twice a year. Others keep doing it all the time. I completely agree with you. How can students study if people are raising slogans constantly on microphones? I think we should ban meetings and rallies at the square. This is the demand of the Calcutta University students. I will ask the police to do the necessary.”
“I request those who have come from the university to write to the city police commissioner. Trinamool Congress won’t conduct any meetings or rallies there and all parties must follow it. If other parties do not follow, you will stage a protest there. I think there should be a law banning such meetings and rallies at College Square. This is a genuine demand as students at Calcutta University and Presidency University cannot study due to noises. There is also Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. This is a great proposal and I completely agree with you,” the CM told the students.
Later in the day, Kolkata Police imposed a restriction on meetings and rallies in and around College Square from Monday. “The restriction in and around College Square will be applicable from Monday. Those who had applied for permission to hold programmes at College Square will be allowed tomorrow and day after. From today, no fresh meeting and rally will be allowed at the College Square,” said a senior police officer.
Since the beginning of the 19th century, College Square has been a part of Kolkata’s heritage. It is surrounded by some of the oldest and prestigious educational institutions like Calcutta University, Presidency University, Sanskrit College and University, Hindu School and Hare School. It is also near Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.
Synonymous with students’ agitations, College Square has been a hotbed of Kolkata’s Naxalite movement at the end of 1960s and early 1970s. These days, it is frequented by political parties, which organise agitations and rallies. Apart from parties, different associations, NGOs, pressure groups also use College Square as a spot for protest.
The Opposition, meanwhile, slammed Mamata for the move. “This has always been a place to organise democratic movements. It is a historic place. I think it was the intention of Banerjee to impose the ban. She made it look like as if it was the demand of the student. Who were these students? Do they belong to her party? This is just a way to gag the Opposition. There is some conspiracy behind it,” said state BJP president Dilip Ghosh.
CPM MLA Sujan Chakraborty said, “I wonder why students of Calcutta University would go to Hooghly to attend her administrative meeting. This is all made up. She wanted to impose the ban. She has been scared after our successful ‘March to Nabanna’. She now wants to silence the Opposition.” “The instruction is another trick to stop Opposition from holding protest marches,” PTI quoted state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury.