We need to send a strong message to the establishment that violence will not deter us
Puja Bhattacharjee | September 18, 2014
In Mamata Banerjee's Bengal, it is becoming increasingly difficult for dissenting voices to be heard. A city known for taking to streets over the smallest injustice has suddenly turned dangerous for those who attempt to seek justice or speak on behalf of the wronged. The violence which was unleashed on students protesting peacefully in Jadavpur university (JU) in the early hours of Wednesday proves beyond doubt that Bengal is under the shadow of tyranny.
In the last week of August, a female student of Jadavpur university was dragged inside the boy’s hostel and molested by as many as 10 men, following which a committee was formed to investigate the matter. It is alleged that two members of the committee had asked the victim ‘unusual’ questions about her attire and whether she was sober when the incident took place. The students have since been demanding that the two members in question be replaced by a retired judge and a student representative, and a fresh probe be ordered. For almost six days the protest remained peaceful, with the administration remaining adamant, but on Tuesdaty night, the police in riot gear descended on them and arrested about 40 students and severely injured many others.
This trend of intolerance towards dissent has been becoming a characteristic feature of Bengal in the past few years. The uncle of the Kamduni rape and murder victim died of police brutality while staging a protest in September last year. Activists were manhandled and arrested when they attempted to deliver an open letter to the chief minister in June the same year, asking her to ensure safety of women and demanding accountability for the police.
A Kolkata-based friend who regularly organises and participates in protests on women’s issues was recently approached by the police during a protest for her address. When she asked why they wanted to know where she lived, they promptly replied: "Because you are at all the protests madam".
Souparno Majhi, a student of Economics department of Jadhavpur University, who is also a member of forum for arts students, says this movement is completely bannerless. The sole purpose is to ensure justice for the girl. A rally protesting police brutality was held today. Madhura Chakraborty, a JU alumnus who attended the rally wrote on her Facebook wall: “On my way back from the rally to protest police brutality on students I get on an auto from Gariahat back to office (Hazra). A mother and her 6 years old daughter gets on. The lady instantly starts abusing Jadavpur University students--These students, they have no work, no studies, they just think they are political leaders (neta), etc. The man sitting next to her immediately protested saying the way the police beat up the students was terrible. And the lady immediately changed tack and started saying yes everybody is corrupt, but just that people like her with young kids suffer because they have to walk so much because of traffic blocks. So I said the Durga Puja also causes much inconveniences but nobody complains about that. She decided to completely ignore that though#HokKolorob (sic)”.
There are people, however, few in number, who fight against injustice. They keep the spirit of democracy alive and ensure accountability of people in power or otherwise. We need them to fight for us, to be on our side and take action when most choose to ignore things that are not of immediate concern. These are the people who ensured justice for Jessica Lal, Priyadarshini Mattoo and very recently supported Suzette Jordan in her fight against an insensitive Kolkata restaurant. Now it is our turn to stand for them and their rights. Scream, shout and make noise until you are heard. Until the powerful take cognisance that violence will not rob us of our voices. Till they understand that we are determined to fight autocracy and stand by those who do.
Are our authorities callous when it comes to ensuring safety of people?