Jadavpur University is no stranger to controversies.
The latest one is over the death — suspected to be a case of suicide — of a first year undergraduate student due to inhuman torture in the name of ‘ragging’ by his seniors in the university’s main hostel.
The death has, once again, brought to the fore the many evils that afflict the main campus of the university that is eponymous with the name of the South Kolkata neighbourhood it is situated in.
This campus has, for at least five-and-half decades now, been a den of leftists and left radicals who have held others to ransom and have imposed their will and whims on the university administration, faculty and other students.
In fact, as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rightly put it a couple of weeks ago, Jadavpur University (JU) has become ‘Atanka-pur’ (a place where terror reigns supreme) University (read ).
The irony, of course, is that Jadavpur University is ranked very high among universities in the country. It has brilliant teachers and students, a distinguished alumni which has made the University proud all over the world and churns out many who go on to become top-notch engineers, technocrats, managers and leaders in many fields.
But JU consistently makes it to the headlines for all the wrong reasons because of a small section of anarchist and militant leftists, and their patrons in the various faculties, who hold life in the campus hostage to their unreasonable and often outrageous demands.
The University authorities, including successive Vice-Chancellors, have been powerless to act against these leftists — be they radicals, 'urban Naxals' or those affiliated to ‘mainstream’ communist parties.
Powerless because they are frequently targeted by the leftist students and teachers — JU has become notorious for its VCs being kept hostage by students for as long as 58 hours!
And also because the brutal murder of Professor Gopal Chandra Sen, the then Vice-Chancellor of the University, on 30 December 1970 by a Naxalite student (Rana Bose) in the campus still strikes fear among the varsity’s administrators.
Swarajya visited the Jadavpur campus of the university (there’s a new campus at Salt Lake) to take a look at what goes on there. The signs of left domination were all too visible:
A number of students were seen rolling ‘joints’ filled with cannabis and hashish, and smoking them. The stink of ganja wafting out from groups of students huddled around the campus was unmistakable.
Groups of students flaunting the telltale marks of their communist leanings were seen huddled in various parts of the campus singing ‘revolutionary’ songs, smoking ganja and whiling away their time.
The banks of the large pond behind the buildings housing the metallurgy and bio-sciences departments happen to be the hub of ‘anti-social activities’.
Empty bottles of liquor, including country liquor, as well as used condoms on the banks that have substantial vegetation (which provide ‘green cover’) offer ample proof of the activities that go on there.
Incidentally, a Bengali TV channel had, very recently, shown these visuals (of empty liquor bottles and used condoms) during a special programme on the anarchy that prevails in JU campus.
Outsiders have unrestricted access to the campus. Even a perfunctory check on identities of people entering the campus is not carried out at the gates, thus allowing entry of everyone into the campus. This allows a huge number of outsiders to enter the campus even after dusk.
The walls of many buildings are plastered with communist slogans and paintings of dictators like Lenin, Stalin and Che Guevara who are communist icons.
The front porch of Aurobindo Bhavan — JU’s administrative building that houses the offices of the VC, Registrar and others — is always abuzz with students staging protests.
Even when the students are not present at the porch, there are enough posters and banners listing various demands and communist slogans that serve as stark reminders of the perennially troubled state of the JU campus.
Right now, the driveway outside the Aurobindo Bhavan and the porch exhibit freshly-painted and handwritten posters against the varsity authorities’ intent to install CCTV cameras in the campus.
This move is being vociferously condemned as ‘undemocratic surveillance’ and an ‘invasion of privacy of students’.
But beneath the veneer of a laissez-faire ambience in the campus, there are eyes watching every move of students, faculty members and visitors, as was discovered by this correspondent.
Soon after this correspondent started speaking randomly to some students who were going for their classes, a couple of ‘seniors’ came along and started asking for this correspondent’s identity and purpose of visit to the campus.
They were soon joined by a few more students who started explaining why the varsity authorities are to blame for the death of the first-year undergraduate student and how JU is a cradle of liberal and free thought.
But as soon as they were asked uncomfortable questions, they ‘advised’ this correspondent to leave the campus.
They were polite at first, but soon turned hostile and threatened to call their fellow-members of the United Students’ Democratic Front (USDF) — a pro-Maoist students’ outfit — to ‘throw’ this correspondent out of the campus.
They were joined by members professing allegiance to the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) — the students’ wing of the CPI(M) — who also warned this correspondent against stepping into the campus again.
This incident made it clear that despite their protestations, all the leftists are united. The SFI and the USDF are actually one and act in unison. There is little difference between communists and maoists in the JU campus.
What Other Students And Teachers Say
What can be pieced together from accounts of many students who are not associated with any students’ organisation and prefer to concentrate on academics — as all students should — is that the leftists, though in a minority, control all activities in the campus.
That is because they enjoy the patronage of a powerful section of professors who are responsible for indoctrinating many impressionable young minds into maoism.
The communists punch much above their weight in the JU campus because they have made the campus their den and beat dissenters into submission.
Ostracisation of students who object to their (the leftists’) behaviour, or their unreasonable demands, is very common, as is physical violence.
Former leaders of the USDF, SFI and other left outfits who have passed out of the university still rule the roost in the campus. Many of them have become permanent (and illegal) residents of students’ hostels and are involved in all sorts of anti-social and even criminal activities.
Some of them have even been accused of getting sex workers into the campus and into the rooms they illegally occupy in the students’ hostels.
The ragging of the first-year undergraduate student who committed suicide, was masterminded by some of these ex-students who dictate terms not only to their juniors, but also to teachers and administrative staff who are mortally scared of them.
The stranglehold of the leftists over the campus can be gauged from the fact that even the Trinamool, which has infiltrated and planted its members in all institutions in Bengal, has not been able to make any headway in JU.
“But only a small section of my fellow-students are leftists. Most of us are not bothered with what they do or say, and we maintain a safe distance from them. But we dare not oppose them because that can cost us dear,” said a final year student of international relations who did not want to be named for obvious reasons.
The apathy, and even antipathy, towards these communists and radical leftists in the campus is more pronounced among students of the science and engineering faculties. Most of the leftists on the campus are students of the arts faculty.
“Science and engineering and technology students don’t have the time or inclination to associate themselves with the leftists on the campus. A few of our students may belong to the SFI or USDF, but they generally concentrate on their studies and career because they know the price for neglecting their studies to shout for azadi,” said a teacher of the mechanical engineering department.
Another senior teacher of the chemical engineering department told Swarajya that he and his colleagues try to impress upon the students to keep away from non-academic activities in the campus.
JU, he contended, has gained fame not because of the leftist students on the campus, but because of the high academic standards of the science and engineering and technology departments.
“I am not saying the students of arts and humanities lag behind. Most of them are excellent and have made us all proud, but it is also a fact that most of the leftists are from those faculties,” he added.
A Catchment Area For Maoists
JU is a catchment area for Maoists. Leaders of the SFI, USDF and other left outfits keep a hawk-eye on freshers who can be recruited.
Many students at the undergraduate level hail from rural areas and come from modest backgrounds, making them very impressionable and susceptible to the enticements of the leftists.
A final-year student of philosophy told Swarajya that initially, he also joined the USDF at the urging of his seniors.
“I was encouraged to take liquor and was given beer for free many times. After a few weeks, a senior (in the USDF) hinted I could have sex with another senior female student. I was shocked and that made me think. I drifted away and am no longer associated with the USDF now,” he confessed.
A second-year student of economics who is associated with the Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad told Swarajya that such things are quite common. “These leftists are degenerate and have no morals. They use alcohol, drugs and sex to lure innocent students into their fold,” he said.
Once an undergraduate student is ‘hooked’, the rigorous brainwashing process starts.
“This brainwashing is very scientific and structured. Senior students, including those at the PhD level, and professors start brainwashing the student. Within a few months, a meritorious young boy or girl who entered JU with dreams in his or her eyes becomes a degenerate soul. Some of them eventually become the flotsam and jetsam of society,” said the mechanical engineering department teacher.
Since the leftists and ultra-leftists are loud, vociferous and militant, they set the narratives inside the campus and become the most visible faces of JU.
The majority — be they students or teachers — do not challenge them out of fear of verbal, physical or mental abuse. The few who have dared challenge them have fallen victims of the infamous ‘cancel culture’ of the intolerant leftists.
“It is important to keep in mind that the leftists are not representative of the larger body of students or teachers. Their shrill voices are not to be mistaken as being representative of the collective voice of students and teachers of JU. A large majority of students and teachers prefer to confine themselves to academic and research activities,” said a senior and reputable professor of the mechanical engineering department.
But, he added, it is important now for the non-left to reclaim their rightful space in the campus and assert themselves.
“The left cannot be allowed to hijack every issue and set the agenda and narrative every time. The left is in a minority in JU and that should be driven home to everyone,” he said.
A large number of students and teachers agree with this, but shy away from a direct confrontation with the leftists and ultra-leftists.
A second-semester student of the computer science department put it succinctly: “Most of us would rather concentrate on our studies and our careers than challenge these left lunatics. They are of no consequence in the larger world. We are here to study and build our careers, not to fight these leftists.”
That is why the Jadavpur University campus will continue to be in the grip of leftists and ultra-leftists who propagate anarchy while indulging in debauchery, even as most of their fellow-students concentrate on their studies and their careers.
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