Black flags, boycotts mar Jadavpur University convocation

Kolkata, Dec 24: The 59th annual convocation of Jadavpur University here on Wednesday was marred by slogan-shouting and black flag demonstrations with a large section of students and teachers boycotting the event to press their demand for removal of vice chancellor Abhijit Chakrabarti.

The protest started off with students waving black flags at Chakrabarti and shouting slogans seeking his resignation for ordering a police crackdown besides pressing for an independent probe into the alleged molestation of a student in August.

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Slogans like "VC go back" and "no negotiations, only resignations" were heard at the venue.

Members of the Jadavpur University Teachers Association too staged a sit-down protest.

Black flags with words "go back chancellor" and "long live revolution" were also splattered across the campus.

Bengali department student Geetoshree Sarkar was asked to get off the dais by chancellor and West Bengal Governor K.N. Tripathi after she refused to accept the award for the best graduate student.

"Undoubtedly the award is a great honour. But how can I accept it when the VC who got the police to beat us mercilessly is sitting in the dais," Sarkar told mediapersons after rejecting the award.

"When I tried to reason with the chancellor about my refusal to accept the award, he refused to listen to anything and ordered me to get off the dais. This reflects the attitude of the authorities who want students to blindly follow their orders," she added.

Most of the students gave a miss to the convocation despite repeated pleas by state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee not to boycott the convocation.

"Your duty is to learn. Never act in a way that the reputation of the institution is diminished. Let us forget if anything untoward has happened in the past. Have a large heart to forget and forgive," Tripathi said in his address.

The students have been clamouring for the removal of Chakrabarti since Sep 17 when the university authorities ordered a police crackdown on a sit-in by students who were demanding an independent investigation into the purported molestation of a female student inside a hostel.

The incident triggered protest rallies in the city and had a ripple effect across the country with students and alumni holding smaller protest marches in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. Through social networking websites, the agitation brought together the Kolkata diaspora and university alumni in solidarity.

Amid the raging clamour for his removal, Chakrabarti, who was the interim vice chancellor, was given full-time responsibility by Tripathi, who is ex-officio chancellor.

The state government later instituted a five-member probe panel headed by Calcutta University vice chancellor Suranjan Das to look into the prima facie facts of the alleged molestation.

Two university students and an alumnus were arrested and subsequently released on bail in connection with the alleged molestation.


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