On the 6th of May, a group of students led by Rohit Jha ( a student of Engineering) organised the screening of Vivek Agnihotri’s film ‘Buddha in a Traffic Jam’ at Jadavpur University’s Triguna Sen auditorium. The auditorium, which is looked after by the Alumni Association, revoked their permission stating that screening the film would be a violation of the code of conduct issued by the Election Commission. The film was then screened at the Engineering Playground on a makeshift screen. As Agnihotri tried to enter the campus, students waved black flags and shouted slogans as he tried to enter the campus. He has been known to voice his support towards the in the past. His film also stars Anupam Kher, who has, in the recent past, established his credentials as a spokesperson for right-wing ideology.
Following the screening, in response to which the students screened Muzzafarnagar Baaqi Hai , a scuffle broke out between them and Agnihotri’s supporters. Majority of his supporters were middle-aged BJP workers who were not students of Jadavpur University, or any other University for that matter. These party workers pushed, manhandled and molested the students of Jadavpur University who were present at the scene, protesting against them. They also questioned how female students had dared to be there and raise their voices. Students handed over four alleged molesters to the University authorities, who later handed these men over to the police.
While these men were detained at the University, more BJP workers tried to enter through the gates and into the campus. BJP leader Rupa Ganguly led these men (some of whom were allegedly drunk) to the gates, demanding that the four men be released immediately. They threatened to break the gates down if their demands were not met. Kolkata Police arrived on the scene in the midst of this chaos, preventing those BJP workers from entering campus. The four men were handed over to the police. Nine women lodged FIRs at the Jadavpur Police Station, along with the Registrar, who filed a complaint on behalf of the university.
On Saturday, the 7th of May, a group of 2000 students marched from campus to Dhakuria Bridge and back, to protest against the violence perpetuated by BJP on the previous day. A number of professors were also in attendance.
Not only has this incident shown how desperate the BJP is to quell voices of dissent in universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University, Hyderabad Central University and Jadavpur University, but it has also revealed just how ugly their sexist attitudes can get.
Rupa Ganguly, speaking to NDTV, said “Those girls of JU, who speak that kind of language, THEY claim that they’ve been molested!“ (translated from Bengali). It is ironic that Ganguly herself was slut shamed last month by Trinamool Patry leader Rezzak Molla. BJP trolls on social media have surpassed Ganguly in their choice of words. Some screenshots are attached below:
Vivek Agnihotri, too, as indicated that the molestation claims were false:
These misogynist comments and attitudes signal the need for continued and relentless resistance towards their perpetrators. If such people are given more and more power, if they are allowed to believe that is acceptable to speak in such a way about fellow human beings, the society as a whole will only go backward.
Harbouring condescending attitudes towards “student politics” and asking why students are on the streets instead of classrooms solves very few problems. If students of history, literature, political science or any other subject have truly learned anything from what they are taught, it is that the consequences of not struggling against forces that attempt to suppress or eliminate alternative thought and free expression of ideas are very, very high. Universities like JU are unfortunately few in number in the country. In most universities, adult students are bound by regressive restrictions such as dress code, strict rules about the extent of their academic interests and a number of other dogmas. If right wing activists try to introduce such ideas and measures onto an institution such as JU, it is only natural that the students will rise in protest.
One can only wonder whether it will be too late when those who are still silent finally decide to speak up.
Written by : Proiti Seal Acharya