From Buddhadev To Mamata, A Midnight Expedition To Bengali Education: A post on Facebook has been doing the rounds since Friday morning. It says – ‘Police is good as long as he is mine.
One thing is clear in these half-dozen words, and that is the ruler’s tone. Some say the warmth of the mattress or the strength of the number. When the politics of Bengal was hot with the mood in which the police jumped into the movement of the Tet passers of 2014 and 2017 in Karunamayi between Thursday and Friday night, The Wall looked back at all the incidents of midnight police raids in education in Bengal in the last one and a half to two decades.
In recent times, many protests have been stopped by the police at midnight. Sometimes it is the movement of aspirants, sometimes side teachers. Sometimes the police took the side teachers in a prison van from in front of Bikash Bhawan and released them in the Sealdah station premises. The hopefuls wearing pink sarees were picked up from the front of the health building by the police and left at Dharmatala. But according to many, the pictures and videos of the incident that happened late Thursday night in front of Karunamayi are much more brutal. So the extent of response has also been from district to district.
Exactly eight years ago in 2014, the police entered Jadavpur University and beat the students. Abhijit Chakraborty was the Vice Chancellor of Jadavpur at that time. After that incident, on a rainy afternoon in September, Kolkata saw ‘Hok Kalrab.’ As the procession left Jadavpur University against police brutality in the middle of the night and proceeded towards Goal Park, the picture shocked the people of Bengal. In the drone shot, the procession looked like lava pouring out of a volcano. Dhakuria Bridge is crossing the stream of people!
Jadavpur came under fire in 2014 due to the molestation of a female student at the university’s fest. Then when it was moving towards encirclement, the vice-chancellor made the police enter the campus. Complaints, not just the police. Along with the police, some local ‘grandfathers’ also entered the campus and beat up the students.
Jadavpur did not stop at that one march. Then the hunger strike begins. The entire university stood by that student. A pair of professors’ organizations took to the streets against the VC over the involvement of the police. In Jadavpur, this was the echo—as long as Abhijit, as long as all are closed.
The student movement practically forced the government. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee herself visited the campus in January. The then Education Minister Partha Chatterjee was also with Mamata. Standing on the campus, the Chief Minister assured that the VC would be changed. Be that as it may. Then Jadavpur returned to the rhythm.
It was in this Jadavpur that the midnight police raid took place on the late night of June 10, 2005. Buddhadev Bhattacharya was the Chief Minister of the state at that time. Feature Andolan, a student organization of the engineering department, created the Tulkalam incident in Jadavpur. Several professors were accused of harassment during the student agitation due to some departmental demands. The car of the then Vice-Chancellor Ashoknath Bose was also allegedly vandalized. The university suspended five students and expelled one in that incident.
The sit-in started on April 13, 2005, demanding the lifting of the suspension and return of the expelled student to the university. Then it turns to hunger. On midnight of June 10, the police went to the Jadavpur campus on the orders of Vice-Chancellor Ashoknath Bose and Registrar Rajat Bandyopadhyay. The students were severely beaten. The Buddhadev Bhattacharya government also had to face severe criticism for that incident.
On the whole, what happened yesterday in Karunamayi is seen by many as a continuation of midnight in the education of Bengal. It is not an isolated incident. However, there are different opinions in these cases. That is, programs like agitations and protests can continue in democracy. But an anarchic situation is not inevitable. Then the administrator has to take strict action. Again he has to face criticism. If you look at history, you will see that this is not a new trend.