Jadavpur’s kolorob is resonating in all parts of the country today- from Jadavpur to Himachal Pradesh to Delhi, There is Only One ‘Sur’… One of Resistance Against All Forms of Inequality and Injustice
‘The Zeitgeist and slogan of the contemporary present is #hokkolorob’. Hok Kolorob- let there be clamour- the call for clamour by the protesters of Jadavpur University has become a slogan resonating from all over the country strengthened by solidarities from the world.
On 20th September, when the citizens of Kolkata participated in the historic Maha-Michhil (grand rally) against all forms of injustice, inequality, gender violence and arrogance of power, it rained dissent in Kolkata. The slogan ‘hok hok hok kolorob’ that started from Jadavpur was joined by thousand unseen comrades of the Jadavpur movement from different parts of the world that day. The Tsunami of Hokkolorob has an immediate context, but just like the post 16th December movement of Delhi, the spirit of this movement is determined to challenge the entire structure of patriarchy and state violence.
The Series of Events in JU That Precipitated the Movement:
While the historic Hokkolorob movement starting from Jadavpur, today is a living amalgamation of anger against structures of violence and injustice, the immediate context that precipitated the movement is important to be remembered for a larger change in and outside Jadavpur.
The movement began with a protest against the Jadavpur University (JU) administration’s inaction on a sexual harassment complaint filed by a woman student of JU. For days the Vice Chancellor of JU kept dilly-dallying on setting up an investigation committee, and shockingly ‘adviced’ the complainant not to come to college for 15 days. Along with the dilly-dallying, the complainant also had to deal with victim-blaming by the members of Internal Complaint Committee. Protesting against this gross injustice, from September 10 onwards, several students sat on an indefinite sit-in protest in front of the VC’s office with their demand of fair and thorough investigation into the sexual harassment complaint. The peaceful sit-in continued uninterruptedly for 150-odd hours, replete with slogans, music concerts, posters, film-screenings and constant attempts at dialogue. The VC refused to talk to the students. And, on the night of 16th /17th September 2014, state terror descended on the students’ protest. When the students demanded answers from the JU administration, a massive police contingent was called in, accompanied by police personnel in civil dress, the Rapid Action Force, bouncers and miscreants associated with the ruling Trinamool Congress. Students were beaten up brutally, many had to be hospitalized including Comrade Prosenjit. A student, even had to be hooked onto a ventilator for his injuries. Several students had broken/damaged knees, arms, fingers, legs, ribs. Women students were manhandled, groped, molested, dragged, kicked on their stomach, stomped by boots, punched, walked over by male police even as the female police personnel stood watching. Rape threats and abuses were hurled at women in the dark. A media cameraperson was beaten up for recording the atrocities and his camera broken. 36 students including Comrade Sudhanya and Comrade Ranajoy (Secretary, West Bengal AISA) were arrested for several hours. Sudhanya was dragged by her hair while her dress was lifted and she was thrown into the police van by four male police/bouncers in civil dress while being abused and threatened.
The shocking police brutality blasted all floodgates of patience. The lies peddled by the JU administration and the West Bengal government’s education department (that ‘violence’ was being instigated by ‘outsiders’, that the police were gentle, that it was the students who really beat up the police, that the students broke the lights, or the protest was by a handful students demanding access to drugs and liquor) was roundly rejected, and in addition to the original demand for gender justice, demand for punishment of the police and goons responsible for the atrocities on students including a fresh round of gender violence on women protesters was made.
Today, on the streets of Kolkata, students and youth are unitedly rejecting the administration’s narrative: in response to the villification of ‘outsiders’ being orchestrated, they are proudly flaunting bands proclaiming themselves to be ‘outsiders’! One popular slogan goes ‘thaakbo paashe maarbe joto/amra sobaai bohiraagoto‘ (The more you beat us the more we’ll stand in solidarity/ we are all outsiders).
As one of the Comrades observes:
“The current strategy of the government includes familiar dirty tricks (like those that had been employed in Kamduni) like trying to put pressure on the victim’s father to reverse his earlier statements and putting pro-government statements in his mouth. Coupled with this, the VC for the first time has written a pompous and bizarre ‘confessional’ piece in the Times of India (!) blaming the ‘extremely unfortunate’ night on his ‘destiny’ and ‘extending an olive branch’ to discuss with the protesting students! The students are in no mood to yield anything though, with anything short of his resignation and their other demands. The impressive use of social media, alternative media and clarity of articulation has been a hallmark of this movement, that helped the students swing public opinion in their support and counter endless statist propaganda, obfuscation, diversions and slanders. Another hallmark has been the strong cultural flavour that marked the protests. New songs, poems and parodies were written. Much like in the anti-FYUP movement in DU, here too the teachers’ association JUTA stood by the protesting students, demanding among other things ‘relinquishing office by the VC Abhijit Chakraborty’, ‘an impartial investigation into the police violence including molestation of agitating girl students, switching off of lights and the brutal assault on students’, and ‘a complete ban on police presence on campus’. They have resolved to wear black badges in protest until the demands are met and to ‘completely boycott the VC in all administrative matters’.” (from Comrade Kasturi’s article published in kafila.org).
This crackdown on voices of protest by the ruling powers is not new. The memories of similar crackdown in the same university in 2005 during the CPI(M) led Left Front regime continue to haunt. More recently we have witnessed the repeated arrogance of the TMC government during the Madhyamgram gang rape and murder case and the Park street rape case, where the state government itself resorted to victim blaming and cover ups and attempts to bribe the victims’ family. The frequent crackdowns on protesting students, youth, and even tea-garden workers have been part of attempts to create widespread fear.
Today we see repeated assaults on student and youth movements everywhere. Be it the filing chargesheets on senior AISA activists belonging to JNU and DU two days prior to elections, or the extremely shameful and brutal lathi charge on protesting students in Himachal Pradesh University who have been resisting massive fee hike, it is clear that the ruling powers are fearful of our egalitarian ideals and our resistance. However, even in these brutal times, one cannot help feeling hopeful.
1. At this crucial juncture, where the Jadavpur authorities and the state government are still unable to reconcile with the idea of ‘justice’ as pre-requisite to any idea of normalcy, we must resolve to continue the struggle with renewed energy and commitment taking forward our demands of justice in the specific case and also setting up of a Gender Cell in accordance with Vishakha guidelines in all campuses and workplaces.
2. It is extremely shameful and unfortunate that all the current committees which have been constituted to investigate the case of alleged molestation, be it the internal complaint committee or the 5 member committee formed by the Education minister comprising of members such as VC of the Calcutta University and the Chairperson of the WBSSC, have blatantly violated all norms and spirit of Vishakha guidelines. The urgent need for a Gender Cell that is in keeping with the spirit of Vishakha guideline and constitutes of representatives from among the teachers, students, non teaching staff and people associated with gender movement cannot be reiterated enough, and must be immediately addressed.
3. Additionally, any inquiry committee to look into the crackdown in Jadavpur University involving brutal violent attack on students and molestation of students on the night of 16-17 September must also be in keeping with the norms and spirit of Vishakha guidelines.
4. The Vice Chancellor and concerned administrative authorities with whom lies the responsibility to ensure that safety and interests of students in the campus are protected, must IMMEDIATELY RESIGN. They did not merely miserable fail at their job, but more importantly conducted themselves in complete contrast to their expected roles.
In the days ahead along with thousand other comrades AISA is determined to continue the movement for the final victory- both in our moral and legal battles for justice and democracy in JU. However, this movement has now grown much bigger and spread much wider than JU-
Across West Bengal today, there is a need to launch a protracted movement for mandatory, functional and autonomous gender cells in all colleges and universities – a democratic necessity which is currently conspicuous by its absence. These gender cells need to be autonomous of existing hierarchical power structures and moreover need to ensure democratic elected representation of students.
Apart from the student representation in gender cells, there is a need to ensure elected student representation in all bodies which take crucial decisions related to students – such as in the Executive Councils and Governing bodies in colleges and Universities.
The freedom of association has to be rigorously defended, and the current culture of banning and ‘dissuading’ students from forming associations and unions has to be rejected and rolled back. Currently, local musclemen control the student union election process, thus rendering obsolete the potential of student union elections.
Across West Bengal today, students are bearing the brunt of not just massive fees, but ‘unofficial fees’ which are paid to ruling party thugs. Apart from this, there is rampant corruption in the admission process and lack of hostel facilities specially for women students along with a total lack of even basic infrastructure in most colleges and universities.
The ongoing Jadavpur movement has in a sense unleashed a veritable flood of protest, resistance and a churning for democracy amongst the students and youth of West Bengal. It has unleashed huge amounts of energy and enthusiasm for real change; in the days to come, there is in fact huge potential for a sustained movement across Bengal for campus democracy and democratization of decision-making, for social inclusion, gender justice and better infrastructure, for students’ voices to merge with the varied democratic demands against state repression, against communalism and for basic rights. It is a movement for ‘Kolorob’ that will hopefully transform West Bengal and the rest of the country in the days to come.