A FORTNIGHT AGO, indeed a few hours before a cruel bout of ragging ended the life of a 17-year-old student, I was at Jadavpur University in Kolkata to speak at a book release on a short English version of the Mahabharata. The occasion was uneventful, except that it disabused me of the notion that Jadavpur was one of the few remaining Red Forts in West Bengal. The students seemed very receptive to my suggestion that the importance of the two epics as defining texts of Indian consciousness had not been sufficiently recognised in the curriculum. Many students also sniggered at the sheer incomprehensible nature of many ‘post-modernist’ interventions. All in all, my brief visit to Jadavpur was quite enjoyable.
There was, however, a revelation. If the students who attended the book release—where the other speaker was Indologist Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri—seemed bright and ‘normal’, stepping into the campus was another experience. Here, nearly every inch of the wall space was covered in leftwing graffiti, that included stencilled invocations to never vote for BJP and representations of other folk heroes of today’s Reds. Che Guevara seemed the all-time favourite.
At one spot on campus, in a discreet spot adjoining a large pond, there also stands a memorial to Professor Gopal Sen, a former vice chancellor of the university. A kind, inoffensive soul with a reputation for being a Gandhian, Sen was the VC during the turbulent days of the Naxalite movement. A few days before his retirement in 1970, while he was taking an evening walk through the campus, he was brutally attacked, and his throat slit by a group chanting, “Mao Zedong, Zindabad”. He died on the spot.
The attackers were never brought to justice. However, the identity of one of those who slit the elderly VC’s throat became well known in the upper echelons of Bengali society. He was apparently the son of a famous doctor living in Ballygunge. With the full approval of the police and, presumably, a section of the political establishment, the boy was hastily removed from Kolkata and packed off to Canada where he is said to live happily to this day. The case of Gopal Sen’s murder has been forgotten.
As for the well-heeled Naxalites of yesteryear, they can still be found mythologising a movement that left
behind a trail of blood and devastation.
They are shameless and unrepentant.
Resurrecting this gruesome incident that happened more than five decades ago has a purpose. The boy who died because of some sadistic ragging was a student who had just arrived in the big city from the districts. He just couldn’t cope with the emotional pressure and was either pushed to his death or died of misadventure. Those who inflicted this emotional and physical torture on the boy did so because they believed they were protected from any disciplinary action on the strength of their political radicalism. The protective shield of leftwing politics ensured that the campus remained a liberated area.
In the wake of the outrage over the young boy’s death, it emerges that there were no CCTV cameras on campus, there were no strictures against the consumption of alcohol and the use of recreational drugs, particularly ganja and charas, and, tellingly, the university authorities were prohibited by the students from inspecting the hostel premises. In short, every guideline issued by the University Grants Commission was wilfully disregarded and violated. In 2014 or so, one VC tried to impose some order in the university. Still, it resulted in a student agitation that impressed the radicals and their fellow travellers in academia and the media. The chief minister intervened, and the VC was peremptorily sacked. His successor, who had a very long innings, didn’t even try to restrict the anarchy. He retired unscathed.
What is very clear is that Jadavpur University is being used as a political toy by the leftists and other pinkoes. The engineering and technology faculties that have a good reputation nationally, function reasonably professionally and follow their own path. However, the troublesome arts faculties are used as a reserve army of agitators by both the ruling party in West Bengal and the different communist factions. The so-called Maoists, for example, were used by Mamata Banerjee to mount a “No vote to BJP” campaign, just prior to the 2021 Assembly election. I am sure that something broadly similar is being planned to coincide with next year’s General Election.
Just like Gopal Sen, the poor boy from Nadia who also died as a result of left entitlement, will be conveniently forgotten.