Protesting Jadavpur University Students Refuse to Accept Medal From Governor

The students were protesting against Vice Chancellor Abhijeet Chakraborty

KOLKATA The 59th Annual Convocation of Kolkata’s Jadavpur University on Wednesday turned embarrassing for West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, who is also its Chancellor, when a student refused to accept the best graduate degree and gold medal from him.Geetoshree Sarkar, the student of the Bengali department, said she won’t accept the medals in the presence of Vice Chancellor Abhijeet Chakraborty. The students have been demanding Mr Chakraborty’s resignation after he reportedly ordered police lathicharge on university students in September when they were protesting against an alleged molestation incident.

“I told the Governor that I cannot receive the medals and certificate in presence of the VC. The Governor then asked me to go away,” Geetoshree told reporters after coming down from the convocation dais.

Another PhD student Abhisek Mitra accepted his certificate, but raised a placard which said “Resignation, No Negotiation”, which was meant for the VC.

A section of students also protested against Mr Chakraborty. Placards saying “Go Back Governor, Go Back VC” were found across the university campus and along the walking bay to the event ground. Students also raised slogans outside the venue.

The Chancellor had earlier threatened the students with a proposal to put a stamp on the certificates of those who were not participating in the convocation, but it failed to dilute the intensity of the agitation.

In his address, Mr Tripathi said, “Never act in a way that reputation of an institution is diminished and will undervalue the degree. Let us forget if anything untoward has happened and have a large heart to forget and forgive,” he said.

The Governor also appealed to the students to cooperate, but the protesters instead held a mock convocation.

Despite West Bengal governor and University Chancellor K.N. Tripathi warning against the move, students and teachers went ahead with their decision of boycotting the convocation.The protest started off with students waving at Chakrabarti and shouting slogans seeking his resignation for ordering a police crackdown. The students also pressed for an independent probe into the alleged molestation of a student in August.Slogans like “VC go back” and “no negotiations, only resignations” were heard as the entire campus was fortified with deployment of large number of policemen.

Members of the Jadavpur University Teachers Association (JUTA), too, staged a sit-down protest.

Black flags displaying the words “go back chancellor” and “long live revolution” were splattered across the campus.

Bengali department student Geetoshree Sarkar was asked to step down from the dais by Tripathi after she refused to accept the award for the best graduate student.

“Such an award happens once in a life and it is a great honour. But how can I accept it when the VC, who asked the police to beat us mercilessly is seated at the dais,” Sarkar told mediapersons after rejecting the award.

“When I tried to reason with the chancellor about my refusal to accept the award, he refused to listen to anything and ordered me to step down from the dais. This reflects the attitude of the authorities, who want students to blindly follow their orders,” she added.

Most of the students gave a miss to the convocation despite repeated pleas by state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee not to boycott the convocation. Chancellor Tripathi warned the students that their certificates would bear a shameful mark if they boycotted the convocation.

“Your duty is to learn. Never act in a way that the reputation of the institution is diminished. Let us forget if anything untoward has happened in the past. Have a large heart to forget and forgive,” Tripathi said in his address.

Later leaving the venue, Tripathi yet again urged the students not to refuse their degree.

“I urge them again to collect their degrees,” Tripathi said before leaving the venue.

Several students sporting their convocation robes attended the event but said they would not collect their degrees.

“We are sporting the robe and attending the convocation but we will not receive our degrees. Perhaps, we could better prove our point by attending the convocation but not really being a part of it,” said another student.

“We have no intention to disrupt the convocation so we are demonstrating outside. We will continue to protests until the VC resigns,” JUTA secretary Nilanjana Gupta said.

On the occasion, the university conferred a degree of Doctor of Science on Avinash Chander, director general of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and a Doctor of Literature on former India football captain Bhaichung Bhutia.

The students have been clamouring for the removal of Chakrabarti since Sep 17 when the university authorities ordered a police crackdown on a sit-in by students who were demanding an independent investigation into the purported molestation of a female student inside a hostel.

The incident triggered protest rallies in the city and had a ripple effect across the country with students and alumni holding smaller protest marches in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. Through social networking websites, the agitation brought together the Kolkata diaspora and university alumni in solidarity.

Amid the raging clamour for his removal, Chakrabarti, who was the interim vice chancellor, was given full-time responsibility by Tripathi, who is ex-officio chancellor.

The state government later instituted a five-member probe panel headed by Calcutta University vice chancellor Suranjan Das to look into the prima facie facts of the alleged molestation.

Two university students and an alumnus were arrested and subsequently released on bail in connection with the alleged molestation.