The recent uprising of the students at Jadavpur University, standing up on the face of a hostile administration that is leaving no stones unturned to shield a bunch of molesters and secure the position of power, speaks volumes on the way gender violence and harassment functions in the country. There is an essential paradox in the way students’ movements/protests is received in this country – on the one hand, there is an outright condemnation and unacknowlegement of the seriousness of dissent on the grounds of being ‘politically motivated’ (being ‘political’ itself is discouraged in an academic institution) or ‘misguided’; while on the other hand, the most radical and major movements in the nation were pioneered and made successful by students, be it the Food Movement of 1959 or the Naxalbari uprising of the seventies.
Jadavpur University with its larger pro-Left ethos has always been politically active and never shirked from dissenting against state repression and injustice. When the VC of the university, Abhijit Chakraborty, refused to set up an independent investigating committee, students across political affiliations and colours sat on a peaceful dharna outside the VC’s office and refused to disperse unless their demands have been met and justice meted out to the girl. After days of protest, RAF, the police force along with TMCP (the student’s wing of the Trinamool Congress) cadres entered into the university campus at night and cracked down upon these peacefully protesting students. Mysteriously, the power supply went off during this span of time when the brawl took place, throwing enough hints about the implied intentions of the administration. Who called the police? Why was RAF needed to disperse a group of unarmed, peacefully protesting students? What business did the TMCP cadres have within the campus at that hour? Who endowed them with the ‘green’ man’s burden of interfering in the internal issues of the university? Questions more concerning than ever are being churned every moment since yesterday’s barbarism!
The police crackdown on the students of JU has disclosed many concerns about the way gender violence is perceived in this country. Apart from the shift in focus from the actual demands to a political strife between the ‘red’ and the ‘green’ with ‘saffron’ trying to reap benefits at the cost of brutality; the incident throws light on the institutional autocracy and patriarchal bedrock on which Jadavpur University, needless to say, every other public universities in this country thrives. With the administration as the stooge of the ruling party, they are all set to throttle dissenting voices and discouraging students to be ‘political’. Consequently, dissenting voices, movements and protests have been maligned by branding them as ‘maoists’ or the ploy of the opposition! This tradition, inaugurated by the CPI(M) is dedicatedly followed by the TMC as well.
However, amidst all the brawl the girl is lost. She, who has been the epicentre of this skirmish has taken a backseat and the movement should not lose sight of that! I have been saying from the very beginning that the JU incident unfolds multifarious ways in which gender violence operates in this country. First, it speaks on the nature of the ‘State’. The state has always maintained a fraught, paradoxical connection with gender violence. On the one hand, as Michele Le Doeuff pointed out, there has always been a ‘state-organized feminism’ in terms of women’s literacy programmes, reservation for women in certain fields and so on, a kind of ‘feminism’ (?) from above; while on the other hand, a more conservative and fanged face of the state that claws upon basic women’s rights and indulges in ‘victim’ (I use the word reluctantly) shaming and other state sponsored terrorism (women protesters in JU alleged they were molested by the police while they cracked down upon them and also the lack of female cops. Moreover, think of the kind of state sponsored gendered violence meted out to Soni Sori) that bear testimony to the other side of the apparently gender friendly state.
Second, it revealed the patriarchal fascism of the institution itself with Abhijit Chakraborty being the ideogram of phallic dominance. Instead of siding with the oppressed (the molested girl), he has chosen to protect the oppressor (the bunch of molesters). The story does not end here, the authorities went to the extent of attacking the girl on moral grounds, raising questions on the kind of ‘provocative’ clothes she was wearing, which is not very uncommon in this patriarchal chain of things! Interestingly, to protest against molestation, more women allegedly faced molestation from the police and the TMCP cadres. This is a continuum of violence against women – whether they remain passive or choose to protest against injustice; and in such a scenario, the violence is institutional and official, blown by the repressive state apparatuses.
JU students must not lose sight of what they are protesting for, they must unitedly stand up for justice and gnaw at the collusion of the state, the institution and the authority figures that perpetuate gender violence against wo/men and vitiate academic spaces that rightfully belong to students. #hokkolorob
All the images are taken from the support page on Facebook Students Against Campus Violence. To support the cause and help the students at Jadavpur University, please sign this petition here, demanding immediate resignation of the VC and the Registrar and a fair enquiry into the incidents.