Students protest against police action in Jadavpur University, Kolkata

Friday, September 19, 2014

35 students of Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India protesting against an August 28 sexual assault case in the university, were arrested by police in the early morning of Wednesday. The arrests and alleged baton charge on students led to further protests on Wednesday, including a rally attended by around 3500 people in the evening.

The protesting students demanded a fresh probe into a molestation incident in which a female student of the university was allegedly sexually abused by male university students who had dragged her to a men's hostel. The students 'gheraoed' — encircled — the vice-chancellor, Abhijit Chakrabarti, over the incident, demanding a new probe committee be set up and the internal probe committee be dissolved. According to students, the current internal probe committee include people who they alleged 'harassed the victim'. The gherao continued for about ten hours by Chakrabarti's account, preventing the vice-chancellor and the registrar from leaving the campus. Students claim they were peacefully protesting and that they had not obstructed any official.

At around 2am local time (0730 UTC) on Wednesday, police escorted Chakrabarti from the Aurobindo Bhavan administrative building of the university. According to Chakrabarti, he "was forced to call police" as he "would have died at [the protesters'] hands had the police not come"; after escorting him out, they arrested 35 students from the campus, including one female student. Police said they later released all the arrested students on personal bond. Students allege police turned the lights off and assaulted them, dragging them and charging them with batons. They also state there were very few women police, and male officers assaulted female students. At least three students were confirmed to have been admitted to the nearby KPC Medical College and Hospital with pain. The students lodged a complaint against certain university and police officials, including Chakrabarti and Additional Commissioner of Police Debasish Roy, on Wednesday morning. The complaint alleged "goons from a reputed political party walked over bodies of the women after switching the lights off".

Police deny the students' allegations, claiming there were about 40 female police officers, and that students had not been manhandled or assaulted. State education minister Partha Chatterjee, of the West Bengal ruling Trinamool Congress party, "condemned" the agitation, suggesting students "were trying to create trouble on the campus." Leaders of other parties criticized the incident and the vice-chancellor's actions. The vice-chancellor stated the students damaged the lights in the campus and he "saw students trying to attack me" when police escorted him out of the building.

In protest of the alleged police assault, a rally was organized for 4pm on Wednesday, beginning from the campus and ending at Golpark. Around 3500 people participated in the rally, including students from other colleges and universities of the city. Actor-director Koushik Sen and painter Samir Aich were also present in the rally. Students of Jadavpur University have decided to indefinitely boycott classes starting from Wednesday. They demand the vice-chancellor's apology and resignation or removal, and the state education minister's explanation. Protests continued on Thursday with certain student unions calling for a student's strike, by all college and Class X to XII students.