By Arka Mondal
Kolkata: West Bengal’s once-reputed educational institutions that once produced some of India’s best known faces, both leaders and scholars, are now plagued by frequent incidents of campus violence, mass copying, irregularities in admission procedures and student protests over trivial matters.
The state’s prestigious institution, Jadavpur varsity, remained the epicentre of a massive student agitation recently that led to the unprecedented step of its vice chancellor being asked to step down. The students’ movement, that had extensive reverberation with many of the Jadavpur University alumni expressing solidarity, had its roots in a demand by students for an independent probe into the alleged molestation of a female pupil. A subsequent “violent” police crackdown on the agitating students gradually snowballed, resulting in vice chancellor Abhijit Chakrabrti stepping down in the face of what he called an “undemocratic” and “unconstitutional” stir initiated by “politically-affiliated” students.
Academic circles attributed the present scenario to the political leaders who are politicising
the educational system in the state to reap their personal gain. It has become a common phenomenon among people to point finger at the party in power. Same happened with the Jadavpur University fiasco with people, including educationists, blaming political interference, especially by the ruling Trinamool, for the “anarchy”. They further claimed that the students were acquiring a tendency to agitate for “anything and everything”. Instead of pointing fingers a section of teachers and students must bear the responsibility for the crisis that has engulfed the education system, said a former vice chancellor Pradip Narayan Ghosh.
Bengal students have always been politically active, but the restiveness now seems to be going beyond limits. The problem is not only with Jadavpur, where the best goes to study, but the phenomenon is fairly widespread. Reports of students sitting on fasts or confining teachers and authorities have become too frequent.
The iconic Presidency varsity witnessed similar scenes with students resorting to a fast-unto-death demanding revocation of the clause that barred students with less than 60 percent attendance.
It is alarming that students have become habitual agitators and the varsity authorities have to concede to the illegitimate demands of the students.
The situation is a result of the former Leftist government’s theory of using the growing restiveness of the students for its “political ambition”s, engulfing the entire education system in anarchy. And the result – the rise of right wing politics in the campus. It surely is alarming to see the ABVP gaining ground in Bengal.
What was horrific was killing of a cop during campus elections. West Bengal’s education now boasts of regular mass copying, goons becoming part of the college administration and teachers and principals working at the mercy of students.
Violence in educational campus is not a new phenomenon and happens across the world. Rather, every country has its faction of students that indulge in agitations. However, the character, nature and dimensions of violent incidents in developed countries are completely different from the violence that we witness in our educational campuses. The prime reasons of these differences are, that our attitude, value and belief system to the academic institution are absolutely asymmetrical from the western culture and belief system. Our attitude and values to the academic institution and their sanctity in student and student-teacher relationship are different.
From the days of our national movement against the colonial power, students in India had played a very significant role and came forward to take active part in the liberation struggle. Such was the aura of the students that it compelled even our national leader to unhesitatingly declare that education could be suspended for a certain period of time but national movement for freedom should be never be stopped. Politics is in our tradition since the time of our national liberation struggle.
During late 60’s and early 70’s of the last century, student politics and campus violence became synonymous with the college life in West Bengal. But from late 70’s, the violence started to haunt the state and its politics. A new type of campus politics emerged. This new type of violence comes with only one motive – to take hold of the campus.