It happened in the dead of night on Tuesday, September 16, between 2am and 2.30am.
The dreaded police jackboots descended on the protesting students at Kolkata's Jadavpur University, thrashing gathered protesters and driving them out of the campus, triggering allegations of brutality on students.
That the interim VC who called the cops is considered close to the Trinamool government was bound to politicise the issue.
That Mamata Banerjee government also “condemned” the agitation was bound to worsen the situation, and it did, providing a cue for the Left student unions to call a statewide education strike on Thursday, September 18, covering Class X-XII in schools and all courses in colleges and universities. Students appearing for examinations have been exempt.
A confrontation between the TMC and the Left was only one of the inevitable consequences.
For those who came in late:
A woman student was allegedly dragged to the boys' hostel and sexually assaulted by a group of 10 men after a college fest. The incident is said to have taken place on August 28 but was reported only in September, following which students of the college protested against the authorities claiming that the internal probe was being conducted in an unfair manner and alleged that some of the probe panel members were trying to harass the victim.
The protesters wanted one of the panel members, Priyadarshini Mullick—a research scholar and the daughter of state food minister Jyotipriya Mullick—removed.
The students claimed that workers of the ruling Trinamool Congress party were exerting pressure on them to end the agitation.
Demand a fresh probe with more external nominees, on September 16, the agitators gheraoed the vice-chancellor Abhijit Chakrabarti and registrar Pradip Ghosh among other officials at Aurobindo Bhavan, the administrative building where an executive council meeting had ended around 4pm. The gherao continued for almost 10 hours when the cops were called in. It was only then that Chakrabarti was brought out under police cover around 2am.
Chakrabarti is learned to have slammed the gherao as "torture" and later even claimed that had the police not intervened he might have been killed.
"I would have died at their hands had the police not come. They were attacking us and I fear we would have been killed," Chakrabarti told reporters.
"We told them to let us go but they did not relent and so I was forced to call police. When the police took me out of the office, I saw students trying to attack me," Chakrabarti said.
The state government appealed to the students to lift the gherao while education minister Partho Chatterjee said, "This is undemocratic; they must lift the gherao and talk with the authorities."
The police on its part admitted to a scuffle with the students at around 2am but claimed that no injury was reported during the police action and also denied lathicharging the students.
Rajeev Mishra, special additional commissioner of police said "We were negotiating with the students since 8pm but they did not relent. Around 1.30am, when the talks did not work, we decided to initiate the process of rescuing the VC and there was a scuffle between the students and the police. The students hurled stones at the police and 11 of our personnel were injured".
Students on the other hand alleged that the police manhandled them and even molested girl students who were protesting. Video footage also shows that there was no woman police officer around.
They claimed that the police switched off the lights and dragged, kicked, slapped and punched them. According to their version, only two women personnel were present and policemen assaulted girls.
The complaint read that the VC initiated “a movement against the students wherein the women were molested, sexually and mentally assaulted, while goons from a reputed political party walked over bodies of the women after switching the lights off”.
In the wee hours of Wednesday, Sept 17, the police freed the VC and the registrar and arrested 35 students.
Soon after the gherao was lifted, the students gheraoed the nearby Jadavpur Police station demanding release of their classmates.
Tension ran high in the campus and surrounding S C Mallick Road area as the students assembled in large number before the police station, disrupting traffic.
Later, all the 35 students were released on personal bond, police sources here said.
Student union leaders said they would chalk out a fresh course of action and threatened that agitation would continue till the authorities apologised for bringing in police inside the campus and resort to lathicharge to "break a democratic movement."
Some students lodged a police complaint against the vice-chancellor and Jadavpur Police Station OC Vijay Kumar Singh, accusing them of molesting girl students while forcibly lifting the gherao in the early hours, DC (SSD) Santosh Pandey said.
The university teachers criticised the VC's action of calling policemen into the campus to lift the gherao, saying he has no moral right to continue at the post after this.
"There has been many such instances in the past where a vice-chancellor has been under gherao for even more than 50 hours, but we have not allowed the police to come to the campus. He has no moral right to continue in the post anymore after the students were injured," Nandini Mukherjee, joint secretary of the Jadavpur University Teachers' Association (JUTA), told PTI.
The alleged lathicharge of students at Jadavpur university has triggered outrage among the young, especially those in Calcutta and they have taken to social networking sites to express their fury with the hashtag #hokkolorob. Protest marches have also been organised against the alleged police brutality, not just in JU but in other universities across the country as well.
There is already a community on Facebook called #Hokkolorob (which loosely translates as "let there be an uproar") which has over 9,000 followers and numerous tweets. Not just that, many have removed photos from display pictures on Facebook to express solidarity and to condemn the attack on students.
Also, a radio jockey in the city decided to call the police and ask them a few things. Unfortunately the byte is in Bengali. The RJ keeps calling up Jadavpur police station and asking why there were no women police officers when girls were being manhandled in JU but his call is disconnected again and again but is left with no answers.
A radio clip produced by RJ Sayan (clicking on subtitles shows the English translation):