The students of Kolkata’s Jadavpur University have “rusticated” West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar as their chancellor over his stand on a host of issues, including the amended Citizenship Act. Calling him “spineless”, they wrote an open letter addressing the governor, informing him of his “rustication”.
Dhankhar’s stint in Kolkata, as the constitutional head of West Bengal has not been a smooth experience, with his repeated tweets expressing dissatisfaction with the state government and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The students’ protests were an additional woe for him.
The JU students, who showed Dhankhar black flags and raised “go back slogans” on Monday and Tuesday, have this time gone to the extent to “disown” him. In an “open letter” addressed to “ex-Chancellor” Dhankhar, two students’ bodies — Arts Faculty Students Union (AFSU) and Faculty of Engineering and Technology Students Union (FETSU) — said he was being “rusticated” from his position of the chancellor.
The letter alleged that the governor was present on university premises in the evening of September 19 “along with miscreants who hurled bombs, sexually assaulted women and vandalised sections of the university”. It further claimed Dhankhar arrived uninvited to JU on December 22.
“We have investigated your behaviour and motives and come to the conclusion that there are shameless attempts to seek attention from students, thereby wasting our valuable time,” the letter said. The letter said as part of the ongoing “evaluation” of university officials by students, the governor was asked a number of questions about the NRC, National Population Register, CAA and the violence targeting students, including Muslims, and his response was found “unsatisfactory”.
“Keeping the above in mind, you are being informed of your rustication from the position of Chancellor of JU. The students’ body of Jadavpur University has also decided to disown you from the position of the Hon’ble Governor of West Bengal,” the letter, made available to media, said.
A report card that was attached to the letter, described Dhankhar’s general knowledge as “less than satisfactory” and said his sense of history was “nil”, and overall character “spineless”. “This is our rustication of Mr Dhankhar in a symbolic manner as chancellor of a premier institution like JU which has always encouraged liberal space and inclusiveness,” Ashushi Paul, head of the SFI’s Jadavpur University unit, said. SFI is the students’ front of the CPI-M. It also accused Dhankhar of “stirring up violence” against students at the university which followed the “party line of Bhartiya Janata Party”.
The governor, who has had frequent run-ins with the Mamata Banerjee government and JU students, was shown black flags on Monday when he had gone to the campus to attend a meeting of the University Court, the university’s highest decision-making body.
His entry was blocked the next day as he made a failed attempt to attend the convocation, an incident that prompted a livid Dhankhar to allege a “total collapse of rule of law”. The university authorities, however, went ahead with the convocation at a function chaired by the vice-chancellor.
One of the recipients tore a copy of the controversial citizenship law on stage while receiving her degree. Several other students refused to receive their degrees in protest against the new law. Speaking to The Federal, Navamita Chandra, a student of the university who refused to take her degree on December 24, said the pro-vice-chancellor told her it was her democratic right to refuse her degree.
Expressing dismay again over the turn of events in Jadavpur University, Dhankhar tweeted on Thursday, “Protest invaluable gift of democracy. It gets tainted the moment it graduates to intolerance and ceases to be peaceful. In the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji I urge all who obstructed my lawful entry to Jadavpur University for two days in a row to engage in soul searching,” the governor wrote on his twitter handle.
Alleging there was silence and inaction of the majority “when a few hold system to ransom”, Dhankhar said, “Chancellor not allowed to discharge obligations and State Actors in passive mode is unwholesome spectacle. Urge Silent majority to speak out lest it is silenced.”
The West Bengal government had recently trimmed the governor’s power as the chancellor of universities, notifying a set of new rules governing his interaction with vice-chancellors. Under the new rules, the chancellor cannot intervene in the day-to-day affairs of universities, nor can he advise university officials directly. All communication between the chancellor and senior university officials will also have to be routed through the state’s higher education department.
Dhankhar’s visit to Jadavpur University in September to “rescue” Union Minister Babul Supriyo from a clutch of frenzied students had set off a verbal duel between the state government and Raj Bhavan, with recriminatory tweets being exchanged between the two almost on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been taking out rallies in protest against the new law, has urged the students to continue their protests and said she will always be by their side.
(With inputs from agencies)