Open Letter To The Chief Minister of West Bengal
Respected Madam Chief Minister,
I have seen a fair share of farces in my lifetime, but nothing to compare with the present situation in the state of West Bengal, which you govern and which I have the honour to belong to. I use the term farce advisedly. I do not know quite else how to put it. Someone whom I respect once said that history repeats itself- the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. If the events that took place at Jadavpur University on and after 17/9/2014 were the tragedy, then I take it I am to call the farce the sort of happenings taking place today at Presidency University on 21/8/2015 as I write this. I am in my own small way a lover of theatre, Madam, and I beg humble leave to inform you that this farce is not remotely funny. The script has neither delicacy nor subtlety. In fact, the hand of the Director can be all too strongly seen. It seems a very forced hand.
It also seems a very big budget production, for I am given to understand sums like two hundred crore are involved. In that case it is natural enough, perhaps, that the Producers should choose to remain silent on the matter.
However, you, madam, have in your caring and custody a considerable number of souls in this State, and you are (I will put it bluntly) thus liable to answer.
I ask you, Madam, is it your opinion of custody that the people in the position of authority will fall upon and beat up unarmed individuals as and when they please? Is torture and oppression a form of caring?
I ask you further, Madam. If it be so, and such is the condition of law and order (or disorder) in this most madcap State, and such beatings are done in the interests of and for the “good of the society”, why is it that these beneficent beasts of prey (I refer to the State police) observe one rule in one place and another rule in another?
I have said this before. I will say it again.
On the 5th of January 2012, in Raiganj University College, a college principal was dragged out by his collar and beaten up. A teacher attempting to intervene had his head smashed open. The prime accused was a TMC student leader, Madam, a member of the particular political party that you rose to power from. The police were not called in by the Principal.
On the 6th of January 2012, in Gangarampur College, the entire faculty along with the principal was locked up in one room by several TMC student leaders. The police were not called in.
On the 28th of April 2012, TMC student leaders rioted and made merry on the Sir Surendra Nath College campus. The police were not called in.
On the 17th of December 2012, students of Rishi Aurobindo Balika Bidyapeeth locked up their headmistress and effected a gherao for 24 hours. The police were not called in.
On the 9th of July 2014, TMC student leaders rioted and made merry on the Calcutta University campus. The police were not called in.
On the 28th of August 2014, the Principal of Jogda Satsang Palpara Mahavidyalay was locked up by students. The police were not called in.
Madam, in the first place, you cannot call one thing (read: protesting students) black one day and then white the next (if members of one particular/specific political party happen to be involved). That, in my book, is called hypocrisy.
In the second place, the Constitution of India under Article 19(b) gives people the right to assemble peaceably and without arms in a space. That is the law of the land. Now one might say, Madam, that it also gives the State the right to impose, in the interests of the integrity of public order, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred. That is so. But then one might equally be asked the question by what stretch of the imagination unleashing police and paramilitary forces on unarmed students is “reasonable restriction.” I do not consider myself an unimaginative student, Madam, but my mind boggles.
Or do you consider posters, banners, violins, flutes, saxophones etc. to be weapons of mass destruction?
However, let that be. I have more important questions to ask you.
Madam, if a girl student (any girl student) levels a charge of being harassed, the Vice Chancellors of Universities in this part of the world have a particular predilection for saying “I do not know anything”. If someone asks them whether they did not notice the police brutality being meted out to their students, they also have a penchant for saying, “I do not know anything.” Suffice it is for me to say that they do not seem to know much of anything. Except perhaps the ways and means of how to turn institutions into centres of academic excellence. Some people would question their knowing even that. I do not. I only ask you: Do you or do you not consider that if an accusation is submitted or a charge levelled, it is the duty of the custodian of a State to initiate investigation? As far as I am aware, it is the burden of the investigation to prove or disprove the charge. Or is it the new law that when an accusation is made, no one will “know” anything and there will have to be tomes of evidence and proof furnished even before any investigation is undertaken?
But perhaps it is difficult when the bodies that the accusations are against are the ones in charge of the investigation. I appreciate that difficulty, Madam, believe me, I do, but is it not your responsibility to the citizens of your State to find a way around it?
Or perhaps it is that you wish to keep it this way. Is that, Madam, why you storm out of television programmes if you are questioned by students, saying that said students are Maoists/Marxists? Madam, I do not consider myself either a Marxist or a Maoist, but I admit I have a curiosity for questioning the workings of history. Unless to you (and it may be, I do not know) every historical fact that has ever occurred including the destruction of the Indus Valley Civilization and the decline of the Mughal Empire happen to be Marxist and Maoist conspiracies, I consider that I have a right to ask you for an explanation of the present situation in the State that is yours and mine.
I hold you to that right because you have stated that “political purpose should not stand in the way, and academic institutions are above everything.” I hold you to that right because you are apparently concerned about brain drain, and you then owe it to your citizen students to explain what you are doing to make the system and environment of their State suitable for them so that they should Not escape (yes, escape; I use the term being well aware of the loaded quality of it) to better places and better times.
I hold you to that right, because this is my State just as much as it is yours, and I am a student here.
That is why I question.