By Rachita Hore
Edited By Shambhavi Singh,Senior editor,The Indian Economist
Armchair activism has been rightly overthrown by its more tech-savvy sibling, i.e. the hashtag activism. This time however, it does not restrict itself to merely fanning its views – it acts.
India witnessed the largest non-violent apolitical student’s rally in recent memory on Monday, 20th September, 2014. The student community of Kolkata took to the streets in a unified protest against the police atrocity upon students of Jadavpur University. These students were in the middle of a peaceful sit-in outside the VC’s office on the 17th of September when Abhijit Chakraborty, the Vice-Chancellor who had been refused exit called upon the Kolkata Police to help reign the situation. Video footages that surfaced online soon after, show constables and plainclothes policemen mercilessly descending upon the unarmed students raining blows as the lights suddenly go off. The police claim the students themselves staged this last bit, but the switchboard in concern was within the building premise and inaccessible to the protesting students.
It all started with JU’s annual engineering fest Sanskriti – a girl was allegedly molested and her male friend beaten up by 15 boys outside the boy’s hostel. When she filed a complaint, an enquiry committee was set up to probe into the matter. Instead of the college authority expressing compassion, it interrogated the girl’s character – she was supposedly drunk. A group of students at this point decided to organize an indefinite sit-in outside the VC’s office in Aurobindo Bhavan until the committee investigating the case was reorganized and an unbiased probe into the event was taken.
What followed was yet another incident of state negligence under TMC’s tenure in the State Government. Although, the Kolkata Police’s part was only till a certain extent as the VC himself was the one who had issued a distress call to the police for executing his rescue operation. In defense of his gross unprofessionalism Mr. Abhijit Chakraborty has accused the students of for plotting his murder. These were the very same students who had little other than their six-string and other instruments on them for arms. As news of the night’s unfortunate events trickled down, the media had a field day. Consecutive reports presented to leading local news channels by the police hinted upon the presence of outsiders on the campus who had provoked the police to react. The outsiders who were later identified as fellow students of Presidency University were termed Maoists and miscreants. Later, sources from the ruling party blatantly called Jadavpur University itself a hotbed for Maoist activity. The State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee firmly backed the VC despite images of girl students being manhandled by the police, and students being thrashed violently. As the students strengthened their demand for the VC’s resignation, the minister daftly stated that their say in the matter did not count.
The girls who had been molested by the police were barred from issuing FIRs at the police headquarters. Unrest ensued towards the incident, and the message of the students spread across the country like wildfire. On the 18th of September, a rally was organized in support of the students. The route of the ray stretched from Golpark to Jadavpur which saw an attendance of around 5000 people. The next day, as news spread, the headcount had gone upto 8000. But the groundswell of support the movement had garnered was most evident on the 20th of September. Approximately one lakh students from schools and colleges across the state, as well as people from all walks of life marched from Maidan to Raj Bhavan in a torrential downpour to show their support for the JU students. Nine delegates were chosen from among the assembly to represent the students in front of the Governor. After the 2 hr meeting, they returned to a large crowd still waiting for the Governor’s decision.
What is novel in this movement is that every protest march was organized on social media platforms, united by a hashtag #hokkolorob. Classes were boycotted. The Left woke up to the issue and all parties condemned this shameful incident. A counter rally was organized by TMCP youth wing leader Shankudeb Panda on the 21st, the victim’s father made an appearance here to mass heartburn. Of course, one may mention here how the Education Minister had paid a visit to the victim’s house accompanied by Panda just the previous evening.
One may ask here what brought so many students together under an apolitical banner to walk almost 3km in incessant rain. As for me, I felt responsible. I felt disgusted and ashamed that a friend could have been molested inside her own university by uniformed policemen in the middle of the night with the university authority’s permission. My sense of guilt has not yet allowed me to look her in the eye and ask her if she will be alright. How will she ever be? How must she feel when she walks down the road today knowing that the officers that have been entrusted with civic safety may turn hostile and perpetrate violence themselves at any time, falling victim to state puppetry? This, I do not know and I wish to never find out. As a fellow human it is my duty to ensure that she is delivered justice along with the 14 other girls and the 20 boys that had been roughed up.
The state maybe in no mood to relent, but they are clearly underestimating the power of innocent adamant rebellion. I say, “Hokkolorob – let there be noise.”To join the movement or for more information about us – Visit https://www.facebook.com/hokkolorob2013 .
She is a third-year English Hons student at Lady Brabourne College, Calcutta University. She is a wannabe-writer/journalist and has been authoring articles on and off for The Times of India since her first-year. She has also had her fictional pieces featured in various national magazines, online and offline, notably Kindle Magazine and Youthopia. Feminist, Hipster, Oddball are all labels that have been used at some time or the other to describe her. To start a dialogue, drop her a mail at email@example.com