photo credit sohini halder

Occupy Continues At Presidency As VC Refuses To Resign

Kolkata, 22nd August, Saturday: After the brutal assault and molestation of protesting students by policemen yesterday on Presidency University campus, which led to the hospitalization of 4 students, and the subsequent demand by the protesting students for resignation of the VC Anuradha Lohia who they held responsible for inviting the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on campus and causing the clash (Read more here), the protesters continued the gherao of the VC in her office.

Photo Courtesy: Nilabja Banerjee
Photo Courtesy: Nilabja Banerjee

The students assembled at 12:15pm for a General Body meeting, where it was unanimously decided that boycotting the convocation which was to be held that day (where the VC would be present) depended solely upon the individual student, as some of them were looking forward to the annual event. Around this time, the VC fell ill causing a disruption in the GB meeting. The VC said she did not require hospitalization when asked by the concerned students.

Photo Courtesy: Soham Deb Burman
Photo Courtesy: Soham Deb Burman

Around one in the afternoon, two rallies, an SFI rally composed of protesting students and a TMCP rally against the protesting students were scheduled to arrive at the gates of Presidency University. The TMCP rally arrived earlier and TMC cadres continued on to College Square where they initiated a loud public meeting, while some of them barricaded the main gate. The gates of the university remained locked to them as entry to the campus required the verification of identity cards. The TMC meeting in College Square protested the dissent of the students against the Chief Minister as she apparently considered the University to be her ‘matribhoomi'(motherland). They also claimed that their fellow cadre was assaulted within the campus and declared that they would like to storm the gates of the campus and break down the walls if it were up to them (which thankfully, it was not).

Photo Courtesy: Reya Chowdhury

At 3.30 pm that afternoon, the VC’s doctor declared her to be medically sound, prescribing rest. She then made her way downstairs to the portico, flanked by guards, to be driven to Derozio Memorial Hall, where the convocation was to be held. The education minister Partha Chatterji’s arrival at the gate some moments later,for the same event, caused a flurry among some agitating students who prepared to block the main gate. The rest of the students continued to gherao the gates of the Derozio Memorial Hall.

At 4.20 pm, the Education Minister Partha Chatterji, and the Governor of West Bengal entered campus to attend the convocation. Protesting students tried to block the gate but the convoy forced its way into the campus dispersing the crowd. Later in the evening, at 6.25 pm, the convoy left peacefully, with lesser agitation among students. The protesting students continued to gherao the VC in her office.

Photo Courtesy: Reya Chowdhury

At 7 pm, an external legal advisor representing the VC addressed the students, urging them to engage in a peaceful dialogue to resolve issues. The students protested, citing anti-student policies that had been introduced which excluded the students’ opinions. They accused the VC of having failed to deliver her administrative duties and demanded her resignation.

The VC then requested the protesters to allow her to go home on account of her ill health. The students conceded, and allowed the VC, the registrar and officials to leave, an opportunity they took immediately. At 7.20 pm, a final General Body Meeting took place where the protesters decided to resist the VC’s return on Monday and continue the gherao of the VC’s office. No decision has yet been made to take the movement directly to the head of state.

Watch this space for more updates.

Report by Manisha 
Thanks to Subhadeep De for the timeline of events and to the respective photographers for allowing us to use their photos here.

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