Campus violence rocked the Visva-Bharati University (VBU) in West Bengal’s Santiniketan on Wednesday (January 15) night, almost in a rerun of a similar incident in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University earlier this month.
At least eight students, affiliated to the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), were injured when they were attacked allegedly by members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (AVBP) and their accomplices in the university campus.
Police said a complaint was lodged with the Santiniketan Police against the two main accused, identified as Achintya Bagdi and Saber Ali.
The university has been witnessing undercurrents of tension since last Wednesday (January 8) after BJP Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta was gheraoed by a group of students when he went to Visva-Bharati to deliver a talk on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
Left-leaning students of the university have been sporadically holding protests against the CAA and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) for the past few days, much to the chagrin of right-wing students.
At around 10.30pm on Wednesday, when Swapnil Mukherjee, a student went to Purbapalli Boys Hostel to meet one of his friends, he was attacked allegedly by Bagdi, Ali and others.
“After Swapnil was rescued and taken to Pearson Memorial Hospital in the campus, a group of ABVP members and their hired goons, numbering around 20 to 25, barged into the hospital with rods and hockey sticks, and attacked us,” said Falguni Pan, a spokesperson of the Visva-Bharati Students Unity.
He claimed that the attackers were led by Achintya Bagdi, Saber Ali and Saurav Karmakar.
President of the Visva-Bharati University Faculty Association Sudipta Bhattacharyya, who had rushed to the hospital, along with other faculty members, after hearing the news of the assault, said, the attackers also abused, threatened and heckled teachers at the hospital.
Security guards, who were initially outnumbered, called help from other areas of the campus and pushed out the “invaders” eventually.
The students’ unity held demonstration in front of the central building of the university on Thursday in protest against the attack.
Bagdi told a local Bengali news channel that he is a member of the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) and had nothing to do with the ABVP.
He also claimed that the SFI students had a fight among themselves after they brought some outsiders into the hostel.
However, the TMCP and the SFI both claimed that Bagdi was expelled from the TMCP long ago and he was presently associated with the ABVP.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh also denied any involvement of the ABVP in the incident, saying the student body had no strength in any of the universities in Bengal, let alone Visva Bharati, to carry out such an attack.
Police said they were investigating the incident and did not like to “speculate” about the political affiliation of the accused.
More than 30 people, including JNU Students Union president Aishe Ghosh and faculty members, were injured on January 5 when a masked mob entered the campus and attacked them with rods and sledgehammers, triggering nationwide protests.