In the drawing room of the two-room flat in Durgapur Thermal Power Station Colony, West Bengal, is a painting of Goddess Durga killing demon Mahishasura. On a sofa below sits Sarmistha Ghosh, mother of JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh. “She was always interested in fine arts. She won many awards for her paintings in school and college. Had it not been for her passion for higher studies, she would have become an artist,” says Sarmistha.
Days after the January 5 violence at JNU, Aishe (24) needs no introduction. Blood flowing down her face was the first image to come out of the three-hour mayhem on campus. Since then, Aishe has been leading the students’ fight against the administration, with a bandaged head and arm.
Sarmistha has not been able to visit her daughter, having returned from Delhi two months ago. She is planning to go next month. Aishe’s younger sister Ishika, studying in a Delhi college, has been keeping them updated.
Born in Burdwan to Sarmistha, a homemaker, and DTPS employee Debashis Ghosh, who used to be Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) member, Aishe grew up Durgapur and moved to Delhi for graduation.
“She scored 90% in Class X and 93% in Class XII. She graduated first class from Daulat Ram College and got a first class in her Masters in International Relations from JNU,” says a proud Sarmistha. Aishe is now pursuing an integrated M.Phil-PhD from JNU.
Pained by the attacks on Aishe by BJP leaders in the wake of the violence (state party chief Dilip Ghosh wondered whether it was blood or paint on Ghosh’s face), Sarmistha says, “I have her marksheets as proof against those doubting her credentials.”
According to her mother, Aishe started participating in student protests while at Daulat Ram, and joined the SFI (the CPM students’ wing) after moving to JNU. Two years ago, she became a councillor in the union and last year, won as JNUSU president.
Despite their Left links, Sarmistha says they were taken aback as Aishe had been a “shy” girl growing up: “Maybe she was inspired by her father, who took part in the Left Front’s labour movement in DTPS… Maybe she never got the space for active student politics. JNU gave her a platform to fight for noble causes.”
Following the January 5 incident, SFI local committee members visited the Ghosh home and felicitated the parents for Aishe’s “fight against the Centre“.
On the JNUSU protest against fee hike, Sarmistha says, “Given our current situation, maybe we can afford a hike. But there are students who come from economically challenging backgrounds.”
Worried over the police case against her for vandalisation of the JNU server room on January 4, Sarmistha says, “Why are police not carrying out a probe into the January 5 incident? It was a pre-planned attack to remove her from JNUSU. The V-C and Union Home Minister (Amit Shah) do not want her to stay at JNU as she is fighting real causes.”
Recalling that Aishe was last home for Durga Puja, Sarmistha says she is happy that people were supporting her daughter in her fight against the “fascist onslaught”. Her father adds, over the phone, “Today my daughter was attacked, tomorrow someone else may be… This is a dark phase and people need to unite. She will continue to fight, no matter what.”