The Jadavpur University witnessed high drama Thursday as a section of students heckled and manhandled Union Minister of State (MoS) for Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Babul Supriyo, who had gone there to address a seminar organised by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). The protesters alleged that Supriyo had insulted and threatened some students.
As the standoff continued, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar first called up Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Chief Secretary Malay Kumar De, before leaving for the university. The TMC, however, criticised Dhankhar saying it was unfortunate that he went to rescue the BJP leader without even informing the state government. As everybody has their own version, here’s what the Governor, Supriyo, students, vice-chancellor, the BJP, and the state government are saying:
What was the protest about?
On Thursday around 2:30 pm, Supriyo went to JU to address an event organised by ABVP. But, he was gheraoed by protesters, from Left-affiliated student organisations, carrying black flags and shouting at him to “go back”. Supriyo refused to leave and entered into a verbal altercation with the students. University Vice-Chancellor Suranjan Das tried to intervene and asked Supriyo to proceed to the event. The standoff continued for nearly an hour. When Supriyo finally entered the auditorium, the students continued their protests outside. Then the students gheraoed Supriyo for over five hours, stopping him from leaving the campus.
What did protesters say about heckling Supriyo?
The protesters alleged that Supriyo had insulted and threatened some students. “He insulted the students and abused our women classmates. He showed rude hand gestures and threatened us with dire consequences. We will not let him leave unless he tenders an apology,” said a student.
The conversation between Supriyo and the V-C
After Vice-Chancellor Suranjan Das asked Supriyo to proceed to the event, the BJP leader asked the V-C why he wasn’t there on time to receive him. “Apart from being a politician, I have a separate identity. I am an elected representative, a Union Minister. Why didn’t you receive me,” he told Das. “I was not invited,” the V-C replied.
“I was invited to your campus. You should have been there. For people like you, there is anarchy in West Bengal. I am sure you are a Leftist,” Supriyo said. “A central minister is coming to your campus. You wanted this to happen,” he added.
Supriyo allegedly mishandled again after the event
After the event, Supriyo was again heckled and allegedly manhandled — at one point, his spectacles fell off. Das, who tried to intervene, was also heckled. Supriyo asked Das to call the police, but the V-C declined, citing police atrocities on students on the campus in 2014. Das later reportedly fell ill and was taken to a nearby hospital.
What was Babul Supriyo’s reaction?
Supriyo alleged that he was assaulted. “I was severely thrashed, my hair was pulled, and I was punched and kicked,” he said. “This is not expected from students of JU. If they have a problem with me coming here, they should have debated the matter. They should not have assaulted me. They cannot stop me from going anywhere… This is the state of the education system in West Bengal,” he said.
As the protestors were demanding his apology, Supriyo said, “They have assaulted me. Why should I apologise? Some miscreants are creating trouble, they should be rusticated,” he said.
What forced the Governor to intervene
As the standoff continued through the afternoon, the Governor, who first called up Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Chief Secretary Malay Kumar De, reached the campus at around 7 pm. He escorted Supriyo to his vehicle, but they could not leave the campus as the students blocked their path. This continued for around an hour, while both Dhankhar and Supriyo remained inside the car. Finally, at around 8 pm, a huge contingent of police reached the campus and escorted the Governor’s vehicle out, through another gate.
What did the Governor say?
“I had to go to JU. A Union minister was held for over three hours. The Vice-Chancellor and Registrar left the campus. All avenues were exhausted, and I had to go personally so that the matter was resolved. He (Supriyo) is with me now,” Dhankhar told The Indian Express later. “I am the Chancellor of the university. I told the students that I was ready to listen to them, that I would try my best to address their grievances,” he said.
A statement issued by Raj Bhavan said: “The Governor takes the incident very seriously as it involves the unlawful detention of a Union Minister and this is a very serious reflection on the law and order of the state and on the conduct of law enforcing agencies.”
BJP condemns incident
West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh condemned the incident and said, “There is no security of a Union minister in Bengal. There is no law and order in Bengal, otherwise the Governor would not have to intervene to rescue the minister.” “We do not support this. In a democratic system, there is no bravery in heckling an elected representative. We condemn this,” said senior TMC leader Tapas Roy.
What’s the stand of the TMC?
The TMC, however, criticised Dhankhar. “It is most unfortunate and shocking that our Governor, the custodian of the Constitution of the State, without informing the elected government, went to the so-called rescue of the BJP leader… BJP leader Babul Supriyo went there to attend the BJP students’ wing programme without informing the government,” said TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee.
Chatterjee added that the Governor did not even listen to the Chief Minister who requested him not to go. “Some unfortunate incident happened between BJP students’ wing and (other) JU students. The state police were waiting outside the university, but were unable to enter in the absence of any communication from the V-C (Vice-Chancellor). Hon’ble Governor… on his way, rang up the CM. The CM requested him several times that the Governor being the constitutional head need not go there at the moment. The CM requested him to give the government some time to solve the issue peacefully. But the Governor went there to help BJP,” Chatterjee said.