BJP Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta, on a visit to Visva-Bharati University to deliver a lecture on the new citizenship law CAA, was confined by CPI-M affiliated Students Federation of India activists for close to six hours inside a locked room of the varsity on Wednesday (08 January).
Dasgupta, vice chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty, other varsity officials as also BJP leader Dudhkumar Mondal, were released from the Social Work department at Sreeniketan, a little distance away from the main campus at Santiniketan late into the night by the protesting students.
"Drama ends in Visva-Bharati without the confrontation that some protesters desperately wanted," Dasgupta tweeted, after his release.
The student protesters, who had earlier vowed to keep them confined through the night, claimed their movement was a "success" as the programme was scuttled. "We are leaving as we are scared of our security," said an agitating student of Sangeet Bhavan (the university's music school).
Earlier Dasgupta, speaking to mediapersons from inside the locked room, dubbed the chain of events as "Left fascism".
Also in a tweet, the journalist-turned-politician said nearly 70 people were locked in a room "for the crime of attending an official, university-convened lecture by me on CAA."
"This includes the VC. There is a howling mob outside itching for confrontation," the tweet read.
The students sought apologies from Dasgupta and Chakraborty for organising a "divisive programme" without holding discussions with them and demanded the vice chancellor's resignation.
Describing the happenings as "anarchy", "failure of law and order" and worrisome", Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar called up the state police director general Virendra and asked him to take "swiftly, necessary steps".
The situation turned volatile when Dasgupta arrived at the campus in Bolpur of West Bengal's Birbhum district to deliver the lecture on the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The SFI activists raised ago back' slogans against Dasgupta, and surrounded his car to stall the programme at the Lipika Auditorium.
The authorities then shifted the programme to the social work department at Sreeniketan. But the SFI activists reached there, shouted slogans, and began a sit-in protest midway into Dasgupta's lecture, forcing him to stop.
The protesters then locked the department's gate, confining Dasgupta, Chakraborty and a few other officials.
Dasgupta then twitted: "How does it feel to have a mob attack a peaceful meeting on CAA and intimidation students? This is what is happening to a meeting I am addressing at Vishwa Bharati now. Locked into room now with mob outside (sic)."
Amidst shouts of "chi chi" (shame shame) and go back from the protesting students, Dasgupta told mediapersons he had come to the university at the invitation of the vice chancellor.
"It was not a party or political platform. It was a programme as part of a lecture series. Now if somebody wants to attack this, it shows they are not interested in a democratic discussion.
"Everybody has a democratic right to express his point of view. I had expected a good debate, and also wanted those opposed to the legislation to put forth their stand.
"The vice chancellor also wanted this. But that was not to be. You can see for yourself what is happening. I will only say the desire to have a monologue is nothing but Left fascism," said the journalist-turned-politician.
Dhankhar took to twitter to express his concern.
"Talked to DGA Police Virendra Kumar about serious situation of confinement of Rajya Sabha MP Dr. Swapan Dasgupta along with VC Visva-Bharati and many others for several hours, and urged him to take swiftly necessary steps. Such anarchy and failure of law and order is worrisome," he tweeted.
In another tweet, Dhankhar expressed "serious concern" over governance taking a "back seat" in the state.
"The incident is reflective of worsening situation of law and order in the State. It is of serious concern that Governance is taking a back seat. Time to take a serious look at this," he said.
Asked whether he would talk to the agitating students, Dasgupta said: "of course we can, if things are arranged in a civilised way."
Justifying the decision to relocate the programme, he said "I was against any confrontation. Lot of people want confrontation. But it is better to avoid that".
A representative of SFI said they had organised a "peaceful protest gathering" at Lipika auditorium against Dasgupta's lecture.
"The students took a stand against this clearly biased propaganda being spread in a place which was home to Rabindranath Tagore," she said.
As the standoff was on, BJP General Secretary in-charge of the state Kailash Vijayvargiya warned chief minister Mamata Banerjee that the consequences will be 'severe' if anything happened to Dasgupta.
"SFI and Trinamool goons have confined Dasgupta and the vice-chancellor. The police are nowhere to be seen. I want to warn Mamata ji and her administration that if anything happens to Dasgupta ji the consequences wIll be very severe.
"His must be protected. I appeal to Mamata ji and her administration to ensure his security.," he added.
(With inputs from IANS.)
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