Photo courtesy: Aritra Majumder

Police Brutality At JU Again: Cop Assaults Student After Verbal Altercation

On Saturday evenings, the gates of Jadavpur University are usually a quiet place: the streets are crowded with busy commuters heading home, and an occasional dog strolls along, enjoying a biscuit or two from the numerous tea-stalls that dot the stretch of Raja Subhodh Chandra Mullick Road between the Jadavpur Police Station and the 8B Bus Terminus.Groups of local residents gather around these stalls, discussing animatedly over cups of hot milk-tea the various important socio-political issues of the times: the weather, the price of everyday commodities; and of course, the decaying moral fabric of society (caused in no small part due to the upstart behaviour of the ‘young troublemakers’ who studied within that very same university).

On July 18, 2015 there occurred an incident that hardly seemed out of the ordinary: at a tea-stall outside JU, a second-year post-graduate student from the JU Main Hostel got into a verbal spat with a off-duty police officer based in the Jadavpur Thana, one of the many who had been posted as part of a ‘surveillance check-post’ instituted by a administration-sanctioned circular issued on 25th September, 2014 at each of the university gates. Having been stationed there for nearly 10 months, there had been numerous such encounters between police-officers and students before, and the crowd that slowly gathered watched with only a mild interest, even as it now escalated into a full-blown argument.

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In a sudden move, the officer moved forward and seized the student firmly by the collar. Ignoring his protests, the officer marched him towards the police station, manhandling him all the way. Some of his friends trailed behind them, shouting for his release, while others sped towards the campus in order to fetch help. The student was taken into custody, and put into the lock-up by the policeman. It was only after his release a little while later that the others noticed the blood oozing out from bruises on his neck and back. Within a few hours, a call had been put out for a sit-in protest in front of the Jadavpur Thana, with a public apology being the primary demand of the students. Even as the numbers swelled and the voices rang out in the night, the officers steadfastly refused to give in.

Photo courtesy: Suswagata Poria
Photo courtesy: Suswagata Poria

Here is an account of the events, as posted by a protester on Facebook:

“সকাল ৭ টা । যাদবপুর থানার সামনে। রাত জেগে, পুলিশি নিগ্রহের উল্টোদিকে পাল্টা প্রতিস্পর্ধা দেখাচ্ছে যাদবপুরের সাধারণ ছাত্রছাত্রীরা।

গতকাল সন্ধ্যেয়, সাধারণ পোশাক পড়ে একজন দালাল (পুলিশ) হোস্টেল এর এক ছাত্রকে জোর করে থানায় নিয়ে যায়, নিগ্রহ করে, কারণ সে নাকি দালালের মুখে মুখে কথা বলেছে । তারপর অবশ্য হোস্টেলের ছাত্ররা গেলে ছেড়ে দেয়। জানা যায়, নিজের ক্ষমতা জাহির করার জন্যই দালাল এই কাজটি করেছে। এই পুলিশি নির্যাতনের প্রতিবাদেই চলছে রাতভর অবস্থান। দাবি, পুলিশ (দালাল) কে ক্ষমা চাইতে হবে প্রকাশ্যে।

পুলিশি নিগ্রহের এই ঘটনা অহরহ ঘটে চলেছে দেশের বিভিন্ন আনাচে-কানাচে, গ্রামে-শহরে। পুলিশি নিগ্রহের উল্টোদিকে পাল্টা প্রতিরোধ গড়ে তুলতে সবার সক্রিয় অংশগ্রহন অত্যন্ত প্রয়োজন।

রাস্তাই একমাত্র রাস্তা ।”

(7 o’clock in the morning, in front of the Jadavpur Police Station. Having stayed awake all night, the students of Jadavpur [University] are showing their backbone and spine in the face of police harassment.
Last evening, a plainclothes officer forcibly took a hostel student to the police station, harassing him, all because he apparently spoke up to him face-to-face. Of course they released him as soon as the hostel students turned up. It was revealed that the officer did this in order to preserve his own pride and assert his own power. It is in protest of this abuse of police power that the sit-in demonstration has been continuing night and day. Our demand, that the police must apologize and ask for forgiveness.
These cases of police harassment have been going on for a long time, in every corner of the country, across cities and village. In the face of such police harassment, it is of vital importance that everyone’s immediate response should be that of shared solidarity, and participating in protest and resistance.The streets are the only road ahead.) 

The next morning, the additional police commissioner of the South Kolkata division arrived, and denied that the entire incident even took place. Newspapers such as the Times of India and TV channels such as 24Ghonta went further, insinuating that the student was intoxicated at the time of the incident and provoked the officer, and stating that the officer in question had been hospitalized himself. Even when the officers finally did admit to the incident, they refused to apologize so long as the reporters and the media was present at the venue.

Photo courtesy: Aritra Majumder
Photo courtesy: Aritra Majumder

It was only after a gruelling 19-hour sit-in demonstration that the police relented. The Officer-in-Charge of Jadavpur Police Station came forward and apologised to the students for the incident, promising that such incidents would not take place again. The students, though overjoyed at their victory, nonetheless quickly saw the need for taking further steps to ensure such incidents did not in fact occur again. On the following Monday the students presented a deputation to the new Vice-Chancellor of Jadavpur University, Suranjan Das, raising the following demands:

  1. The police check-posts currently still present at the gates of the university campus must be removed, and police posting within the campus must be lifted.
  2. All installed CCTV cameras have to be removed, and Special Branch, Intelligence Bureau agents must not be allowed to surveil students.
  3. The long standing demand for an effective Gender and Anti-Harassment Cell with student representatives present be fulfilled.
  4. Adequate student representation must be elected into the Executive Council (EC) of the University, as this body currently holds the power to make all decisions within the campus.

After a brief discussion with the student delegation, Professor Das conceded to all the demands presented by the general student body of Jadavpur University. He further assured them verbally that these issues would be brought up and discussed in the next EC meeting, scheduled for the first week of August.

Report by Siddhesh Gooptu
Header Photo Courtesy: Aritra Majumder
Edited by Manisha 

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