Violence on college campuses is not rare in West Bengal, but the intensity of such violence has risen to unprecedented levels in the last one-and-a-half years after the Trinamool Congress government came to power (See box).
Soon after it came to power, the Trinamool government formed a seven-member committee to review the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations for free and fair elections in college students’ union, but till now the committee members have failed to submit their recommendations. The six-member committee, headed by the former Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh was appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2006 on the direction of the Supreme Court to study the diverse specifics of student union elections.
According to academicians and political experts, campus violence has been on the rise because there is a rush to grab political power in the unions after the Left Front lost the last Assembly elections. If any union wins in the students’ union election, power gets concentrated in the hands of a few, which triggers violence. They gain control over the union and the fund for students’ welfare too, which is bound to lead to clashes. Even during admission in colleges, some of the leaders of the students’ union charge hefty amounts from students for admission in the college and as a result amass huge wealth.
According to Amol Mukhopadhyay, former principal of Presidency University, bitter relationship between various political parties have an impact on students’ unions’ functioning, and this has got reflected in campus violence. Nowadays, students enter politics only to grab power and amass huge wealth. The motto of the students’ union should be helping other students, he says.
Experts feel that since many MP/MLAs of the ruling party become presidents of governing bodies, they exercise huge power over the college administration. In their recommendations, the principal is bound to take admission of some students who do not have enough merit.
In most of the cases, the MP/MLAs themselves do not have the educational qualification to become a governing body member of the college.
A senior principal of a college said that he had heard of various instances where the principal of a college was forced to admit students in a particular department without the requisite qualification. Few months ago, the principal of Gurudas College had complained that he had to admit a student in Economics as he was recommended by Paresh Pal, president of the governing body of the college.
Communism and campus violence have been synonymous with college life in West Bengal, especially during the heady days of Naxalism during the 1970s. After a brief pause, violence seems to be back to haunt the state, and this time without the tinge of idealism.
“Right now what is going on is not campus violence, it is an attack on the campus,” said CITU’s Shyamal Chakroborty.
One after another
January 5, 2012: The principal of Raiganj College in north Bengal was dragged out of his room and allegedly beaten up by Trinamool Congress Chatra Parishad members. They were reportedly angered by his refusal to postpone students’ union elections in the college.
Action: Police made some arrests but later all were granted bail by the court.
January 7, 2012: The principal of Sudhiranjan Lahiri College in Nadia was allegedly beaten up by members of CPM’s student wing SFI.
ACTION: Police acted with more firmness as all the SFI members were slapped with non-bailable charges, a move which triggered charges of partisanship.
January 11, 2012: The principal of Rampurhat College was heckled by Trinamool Congress Chatra Parishad when he told media that some supporters of the students’ wing had threatened to kill him if he postponed the students’ union election.