Guest Post by EFLU Alumni and Other Concerned Individuals
[ This is a statement prepared by some alumni of EFLU, in the aftermath of the rape of a woman student on campus last week. The statement was then shared on the social media for endorsement. Those who had drafter the statement say that they “…were overwhelmed by the support shown by a cross section of people including alumni, not just practicing academics and students of other universities, but also techies and bankers, journalists and professionals.” The statement is intended to be seen as an expression of solidarity with the complainant, in appreciation of her bravery and as a means of extending support to the EFLU community who are trying to fight for gender justice in innovative and inclusive ways. ]
This is a public statement condemning the rape of a girl student in the hostels of The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. We express our solidarity with the complainant and demand that the guilty be punished. Happening within the university space, this action by the student’s peers shocks and saddens us, but also points at the deep entrenchment of patriarchy even within the most radical of spaces.
It’s been more than a week since tens of thousands of students marched in a rain drenched Saturday in Kolkata, in solidarity with Jadavpur University students and their fight for justice. Much has happened since to delegitimise this mammoth, genuinely popular and student-led march. A counter-march, the co-optation of the victim’s father by the ruling party, adverse propaganda in the press and fatigue and confusion amongst the protestors have been some of the dampening developments that followed the unexpected show of student power. True to their clarion call, hok kolorob (let there be clamour), the marchers made a lot of noise. A week later, as the numbers of protestors on the streets have dissipated as fast as they had congregated, it is perhaps time to step back from the euphoria of the gathering and the intimidation and murky co-optation of protest that followed, to reflect on the political meanings and potential of this uprising.
The march was not organised by any single political party, though many with experience or background in student politics of one ilk or the other, marched. The vast majority, however, were students who had never marched before and had no experience of politics. The question therefore arises, what, if anything is the unifying ideology of this body of protestors? What goals motivate them? Above all, the question that is doing the rounds the most, on social media, on mainstream news and on the streets is what are the politics of the protestors? The question of politics is seldom posed directly. Its ubiquitous presence, however, can be clearly read in the answers provided regarding the nature of the march, the motivations of the protestors and the identity of the marchers. Unsurprisingly, diametrically opposite sets of answers emerge from members of the ruling party, inside and outside Jadavpur University; and the people who took to the streets on Saturday. From the Vice Chancellor, the Education Minister and officially ordained leaders of the ‘youth’, such as Abhishek Banerjee and Shankudeb Panda, characterisations emerge that focus on indiscipline on campus, presence of Maoist and other outsiders and deep conspiracies. From students of Jadavpur University and their sympathisers, assertions emerge that this protest is about justice and not about politics. Both characterisations fail to capture what is at stake.
It was not so long ago that Sugata Bose, now Lok Sabha Member for Jadavpur, made his way back from Harvard to serve his people. West Bengal had voted for ‘poriborton’, ‘change’, and as everybody assumed that Bengalis loved their fellow-men who had been anointed abroad, Sugata Bose returned to conquer the heights of Bengali higher education. The plan was to use a brand name within a brand name to shore up another brand name : Harvard, Netaji, Presidency. The Trinamul Congress, Bose was confident, would not interfere with his plans. Or so he said in public; his mother, Krishna Bose, had been the Trinamul Congress’s Presidential candidate, and long regarded as the force behind the attempted bhadramahilafication of Didi, apparently a prerequisite for political acceptability in West Bengal (otherwise known as Waste Bengal or Poschimbongobongo). It was therefore no surprise that his plans did not diverge from the plans of the TMC, although ‘internal differences’ were often heard of. It was also no surprise that, as the attempts to turn Presidency ‘University’ into the font of moral and intellectual legitimation for the TMC faltered, Bose took the mantle of his great-uncle upon himself and stood as a candidate for the TMC in the Lok Sabha elections, from the Jadavpur constituency. There was not even the pretence that Sugata Bose stood on his own credentials: his campaign marches were led by a child in Netaji uniform and Netaji glasses, prompting a complaint to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
Now, in the Jadavpur constituency, duly won by Netaji’s heir, and not by a hair’s breadth, developments at Jadavpur University are cause for concern.