A peaceful gathering of people not older than you or I. Singing, dancing, standing up for a cause. The exuberance of unabashed youth twinkling in their eyes. And suddenly, in a matter of a few hours their world had turned completely turtle. Lathis flew, friends were injured and lives were threatened. And through all this, the student community of Jadavpur University has come out in unison, with courage and strength.


Source : https://www.facebook.com/hokkolorob2013

Hok Kolorob isn’t just another phrase from a Bengali textbook. Roughly translated, it means “let voices rise”. And that is exactly what the Jadavpur agitation is all about. To raise one’s voice against what is wrong even in the face of the gravest oppression and staunch opposition. Given the coverage and support this agitation has received from all parts of the country, people already must have a fair idea about the issue. But still, for the sake of relevance, a brief overview of the events is given below.

These events are quoted from two of our friends present in the JU campus who prefer to remain anonymous.

  • On 28th August, 2014, a female student of Jadavpur University (JU) was allegedly molested by a group of ten men inside the boys’ hostel of JU main campus. Her male friend accompanying her was taken aside and beaten.
  • The students of JU decide to hold a general body meeting following the incident to decide on a course of action.
  • Their demands- An impartial investigation be carried out to ensure justice. A committee already formed was allegedly partial.
  • Protests, demonstrations and sit-ins were completely peaceful.
  • The Vice Chancellor, allegedly indifferent wished to not converse with the students.
  • On the 16th, after more than 150 hours of sit-in demonstrations, a gherao was organized, which was peaceful and no staff members were denied entry/exit.
  • The students only demanded a public statement from the Vice Chancellor regarding a fresh probe into the molestation case.
  • At about 2 am, on the 17th, police and certain people in civil dress attacked demonstrators to extract the Vice Chancellor from the University while beating up the students. Male policemen attacked female and male students. Lights were put off.
  • More than forty students were injured and hospitalized and around 37 arrested.
  • Students then organized a peaceful rally on the following day in protest.

Now, as an individual sitting in the campus of IIT Kanpur, 1200 kilometres up the Ganga, far from where this agitation is on in full swing one may wonder about the relevance of the movement. Although one  cannot comment on whether it was correct on the part of the students to use the method they did to bring justice to the accused for this shameful crime. But it a completely valid and legal path. But as a student and more so as a human being, one simply cannot justify the use of violence on a group of peaceful protestors.

This article however is not about the lathi-charge, it is not a character sketch of the Vice Chancellor or a personal rant of the authors against either of the two parties involved. No, instead this article is about the validity of such a step, of its repercussions, of the need for people to be aware of what is turning out to be a matter of national importance as well as to make sure the original issue does not get overshadowed.

So, firstly, why should one unleash the police force on a group of unarmed students? Could the Vice Chancellor not have been rescued without resorting to such measures? As a nation proud of her democratic identity which also upholds the right to peaceful protest, this was completely uncalled for. September 17, 2014 will perhaps be registered as a black day in the history of Indian Education.

Following the issue, however, presumably neither the police nor the concerned authorities would have anticipated what this would snowball into. From being an isolated event in Kolkata, it transformed almost overnight into a nation-wide movement making #hokkolorob the most trending topic over social media. Students from distant parts of the country have extended their solidarity. From protest marches being undertaken in multiple campuses, to petitions being raised against this blatant use of power, support and solidarity has arrived from the most unlikely sources. A mega protest march on Saturday, 20th September, saw over a lakh students and common citizens of Kolkata converge to march towards Raj Bhavan and lodge a complaint to the Governor of West Bengal, who also happened to be the Chancellor of Jadavpur University.

So, why should the event bother us?

Bengal, especially Kolkata, is notorious over the nation for the influence of politics on education – there is an understandable repulsion for student politics which usually transcends being truly representative of the student voice are often fabricated over greater political gain. This incident though is different. These are our colleagues, our friends, who are protesting, without any tinge of political colour. From a personal view, these are people whom the authors have known and grown up with. And to see them hurt and physically assaulted, without any fault on their part, while standing up for justice –  is something any rational mind cannot fathom.

This event also serves as an eerie reminder of the attack by goons allegedly owing allegiance to a local politician at GSVM College, Kanpur, in March 2014. The campus of IIT Kanpur had not been affected directly, but the audacity of people in power came as a rude shock to many and made us raise our voice. We know now that howsoever isolated such incidents may seem or how far-off and detached one might be, there is no guarantee that this might never happen to you. Sitting far-off in the comforts of one’s home with the escapist view of being glad to be away from all the hullabaloo while wanting the nation to change at the same time is a fool’s utopia. Discussing how wrong such matters are over coffee and yet not doing anything about it, or worse, shrugging them off as something of little concern, is downright dangerous. A nation’s strength lies not in its numbers but in the ideals it is beset in. And the idea of justice has been dealt a blow by this incident. It is precisely this reason that students all over the nation need to (and are) show their solidarity.

A word of caution. The use of oppressive force on unarmed students has somehow taken the limelight away from the root cause of it all. The molestation charges levelled by the girl and justice to be meted out to the ones responsible for such a heinous crime. We would like to emphasize that it is of prime importance this issue is not forgotten. And of course, not allowing any untoward incident to take place that would invalidate the non-violent nature of the protest is also vital. The attitude of the people of Kolkata regarding this has been admirable. There has been no violence or vandalism and we hope that it remains this way.

Finally to conclude, the authors of this article meant it to inspire people to rise up in support of our fellow mates waging their battle miles away. We hope and pray that good sense finally prevails and justice is served. And if such an event happens in the future, the students of the nation, the back-bone of the society, do not need to take to the streets to protest.

It has often been said that there are only two ways to live: “You either let things be or take up the mantle to change what is wrong”. In the end, it is a choice we all have to make.

As an epilogue, a candle march is going to be organized at IIT Kanpur to show solidarity and we encourage the campus junta to support the cause.

This article has been written by Archish Mazumdar and Sharbatanu Chatterjee