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‘Indecent’ student protests in Kolkata mar Presidency’s reputation

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Kolkata: In its 198-year-old history, Presidency University (formerly Presidency College) has seen it all  from being a prominent hub of India’s nationalist movement, to emerging as hotbed of West Bengal’s Maoist agitation. it has churned out elites and Nobel laureate and of late, witnessed a spate of ignominious anti-establishment students’ protests. Barely a year after Jadavpur University’s popular ‘Hok Kolorob’ (Let there be shouts)student agitation subsided, the Presidency campus, where the likes of Chittaranjan Das, Subash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda studied, simmered with what most have have termed an “indecent” agitation.

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A section of students confined Vice Chancellor Anuradha Lohia in her office for over 30 hours, defaced walls, stood on her table, vandalized her nameplate and demonstrated with posters and slogans both inside and outside her office, demanding her resignation. The trigger: An official visit of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to the varsity campus to announce a slew of funding initiatives and ventures. They greeted her with black flags and shouted slogans demanding action against those purportedly activists of ruling Trinamool Congress’ students’ wing – who were behind the vandalizing of the university’s heritage Baker Laboratory in 2013. Lohia has ruled out any resignation saying she was an apolitical person and the college was dependent on the state government for funds. The methods used by the students to make their point have been roundly criticized by a wide section of the people. The students claimed to have been roughed up by police during the visit, and alleged the vice chancellor failed to protect them. However, the real message, said Trisha Chanda, the students union general secretary, that the students (including a male protester dressed in black boxers and bra) failed to convey through the movement was the “autocratic” reign of the vice chancellor. “In the last one-and-a-half year, there have been transfers, renowned academicians have quit as faculty and she refused to listen to our pleas when a stringent attendance system was imposed and several students were barred from exams. “This has not happened during the previous vice chancellor’s time so why now? We want academic excellence and that is why we are raising our voices”.

But she did concede their mode of protest was not right for an institution as prestigious as the Presidency University, and that is why they later apologized But the call for Lohia’s resignation stays loud and clear. Lohia has stood resolute on her stance that “resignation is not happening under any situation”. She has even defended the perceived “closeness” to the chief minister, including her accompanying Banerjee during her London visit in July. “I am not close to anyone. Yes I went with the chief minister to London. I went when she asked me to go for an administrative meeting. I was not the only VC there. There were four others. How come no one else was targeted? Maybe they think I am close to her but as far as I know, I am not close to anyone,” Lohia has said. A President herself, Deboshruti Roychowdhury, the former dean of students at the varsity, who has “wholeheartedly” supported the agitation, doesn’t approve of the tenor of the movement. “I did scold them. But the reason they are fighting for is completely justified. Academic excellence has gone down the drain over the last one-and-a-half years. The protests reached a climax on the day of the varsity’s third convocation on August 23, with the agitating students calling for a boycott though the event went off peacefully. Eminent scientist Bikash Sinha, a Presidency alumnus, lambasted the “sorry state of affair” in Bengal and reiterated his concern about the state being a failure. Former director of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Padmanabhan Balaram, who was the chief guest at the convocation, criticized the country’s sole preoccupation with politics and its fading culture of learning and scholarship. However, Chanda and her fellow agitators have denied any political motivation in the movement. With the students now softening their stance, comparisons have started cropping up between the hugely successful ‘Hok Koloroba’ movement and the Presidency damp squib.

In September, 2014, police had resorted to a midnight baton charge after being called in by then Jadavpur University vice chancellor Abhijit Chakrabarti to clear out students laying siege to his office over their demand for an independent probe into a molestation. The police action only intensified the protests with the movement, finding support from various educational institutes across India as also from alumni across the globe. The Presidency fracas too garnered support. Student unions at the University of Hyderabad and New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University have stood by the agitators. Stark contrasts exist, though, in the two cases. While Governor K.N. Tripathi and Higher Education Minister Partha Chatterjee have extended support to Lohia, a year ago Chakrabarti’s removal was announced on a megaphone by Banerjee amidst a large gathering of student protestors. Presidency University has its roots in the Hindu College, established in 1817 that cradled the 19th century Bengal renaissance. It was christened Presidency College in 1855. The previous Left Front government in the state upgraded it to a university in 2010.

(IANS)

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Our leaders’ Anger Against Jai Shri Ram may Burn Hindu Culture to Ashes

Mamata’s hands are stained with the blood. Her regime witnessed n-number of violent massacres. She is responsible for ruining countless households. She is also responsible for breaking the hearts of innumerable women who have become widows, and their children orphans

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hindu culture, jai shri ram
The Bengal CM had immediately stopped her car and got down to scold the people around who had chanted “Jai Shri Ram”.

By Salil Gewali

If a leader loses his cool at the drop of the head than he is not a real leader. Anger and leadership scarcely go together. The recent number of video clips that went viral has further dented the credibility of the Bengal Chief Minister. It all looks like a comical drama of fury, and obviously unbecoming of any leaders. What is awfully disgusting is that a phrase dedicated to God could bring out a load of nasty abuses!

The Bengal CM had immediately stopped her car and got down to scold the people around who had chanted “Jai Shri Ram”. She did not hold back to arrest them. One wonders how sane citizens of India look at this. Could Bengal CM do the same with people from other faiths? Muslim community offer their NAMAZ on the roads blocking the public and the vehicular movement. Mamata has never uttered a whimper against this, much less taking a legal action. Mamata’s Bengal is literally an epitome of “discrimination and injustice”. Well, it is not proper to provoke anyone. But why on earth does Bengal CM get so easily provoked when she herself has “provoked” the majority of the natives in the state?

hindu culture, jai shri ram
Mamta Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal. Wikimedia Commons

The natives of Bengal have reacted by screaming “Jai Shri Ram” out of their sheer frustration – which is their way of expressing their pent-up anger towards the maverick CM. The present Lok Sabha election result has made the people a little bolder. It has also become quite obvious how the native Bengali detest Mamata’s misrule. Needless to say, Mamata’s hands are stained with the blood. Her regime witnessed n-number of violent massacres. She is responsible for ruining countless households. She is also responsible for breaking the hearts of innumerable women who have become widows, and their children orphans. The ground reality and the condition of those bereaved families are inexplicably pathetic. Practically no one to support them. One TMC MP – Subhasish Chakraborty has further instructed his party people not to allow Hindus to vote in future.

Is Bengal Chief Minister truly aware of the meaning and intention of this sacred phrase?  The literary translation of “Jai Shri Ram” is — Jai – victoryShri – riches of the material world,Ram – riches of the spiritual world which essentially means –  bliss. For a spiritual seeker, it is highly recommended to chant in order to dispel the fear, material anxiety and be free from the worldly faults, which is intended to overcome the cycle of births and deaths. The final purpose being the mergence with the Almighty. As God cannot be “separated” from our moment to moment action, apart from chanting in meditation, it is also prescribed to use while greeting others too.  The more, the merrier.

Jai shri ram, hindu culture
The literary translation of “Jai Shri Ram” is — Jai – victory, Shri – riches of the material world, Ram – riches of the spiritual world which essentially means – bliss. Wikimedia Commons

Is it not a grand idea, much bigger, much profound than what we can ever think of? Nothing could be so disgraceful than the fact that most of the “pearls of wisdom” of ancient India have been purposely distorted or misinterpreted, or even portrayed with the wrong descriptions by some vested interest. Therefore, now in the mainstream anything connected with ancient India and the culture is seen with contempt.

ALSO READ: Mamata Accused Parties for Spreading Hatred, Called ‘Shameless Politics’

On the other hand, why does this sacred Hindu phrase of holy name set off the anger of the head of the state? Being the Chief Minister and showing direct contempt for particular faith only has only sent out the wrong message.  It’s totally unwarranted, it’s unconstitutional and spiritually sinful too. Why are the custodians of the constitution silent and not taking any step? Does it not amount to the full acceptance of the brutish “might is right” of the olden days — which is prevalent now Bengal? Why is the democracy not in danger now?  One is afraid, how much bloodshed and the terror to roar before the Centre take the decisive action. No CM should take the native and its culture hostage and live off the country’s resources.  Mind out, our leaders’ anger against ‘Jai Shri Ram’ or ‘Sabarimala’…. may burn Hindu culture to ashes.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali