West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar was on Tuesday prevented from attending the annual convocation at Jadavpur University (JU) by a group of protesters from the TMC-backed non-teaching staff association who blocked his convoy, waving black flags and shouting slogans against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
Dhankhar, who is the Chancellor of state universities, was confined to his vehicle for nearly two hours. He called up Vice-Chancellor Suranjan Das, who expressed helplessness. The Governor then addressed the assembled mediapersons and said the convocation should be suspended. However, the convocation was held even as Dhankhar returned to Raj Bhavan.
“We were also gheraoed. The decision to hold the convocation was taken by the administrative body, not me,” V-C Das later told reporters.
Denouncing the incident as a “total collapse of rule of law”, Dhankhar blamed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the protests over the new citizenship law. He later called a meeting of all Vice-Chancellors on January 13, and said he would also seek a discussion with Banerjee on the issue.
When Dhankhar arrived at the university at 10.30 am, a section of students were protesting against him for supporting the CAA. However, it was the non-teaching staff who blocked his convoy and heckled him, shouted slogans like “Dhankhar, go back”.
The Governor then opened the sunroof of his vehicle to address mediapersons. “Suspend the convocation… The V-C should quit if he can’t handle the situation. The Chief Minister is to blame for this crisis. She opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act… in public space, with public funds,” he said.
“There can’t be complete lawlessness. There is total collapse of rule of law,” said Dhankhar. “I appeal to all, don’t play with fire, maintain rule of law. You can’t allow a handful of people to do this,” he said.
He also put out a series of tweets. “The number of those obstructing is only around fifty. System being held hostage and those enjoined with the task are oblivious of their obligations. A collapse that can only lead to unwholesome consequences. Rule of law is nowhere in sight,” he said.
“I am amazed that the Vice-Chancellor is in passive mode and silent spectator to this unseemly spectacle that augurs painful sliding of our system. This action is orchestrated by the powers that be, not knowing the damage it causes in short and long run on our education,” he said.
“Am surprised that inspite of my directive to V-C to go by rule-book and abide by my direction as regards convocation, the same has been started. In utter helplessness as of now I am leaving the Jadavpur University campus. Those concerned must soul search,” he tweeted.
Later in the day, he called a press conference at Raj Bhavan, where he alleged attempts by the state government to “usurp” his authority. Saying that there is “a policy paralysis”, he accused the state government of trying to “shackle the education system” and put the universities “in a political cage”.
“To contain this detrimental impact on the career of students, I, as Chancellor of the universities, have decided to call a meeting of all the Vice Chancellors… at Raj Bhavan on January 13,” he said.
The Governor faced protests at Jadavpur University on Monday too, when he had gone to attend a meeting of the university court, its highest decision-making body. He could not attend the court meeting due to the protests.