Activists in neighbouring Bangladesh, including leaders of the Shahbag movement, have expressed solidarity with the agitating Jadavpur University students here.
The protests, under the banner of ‘Hok Kolorob’ (Let there be shouts), began Sep 17 when university authorities allegedly ordered a police crackdown to break up a peaceful sit-in of students pressing for an independent investigation into an alleged molestation of a woman student inside a hostel last month.
As the Jadavpur University campus simmers, so does the Shahbag crossing in Dhaka, some 500 km away from Kolkata, though the reasons for protests are different.
Imran H. Sarker, one of the leaders and spokesperson of the Shahbag movement, told IANS that they are “supporting the students.”
“We know about the protests in Kolkata and please convey to them that they have our support,” Sarker told IANS from Bangladesh, adding that currently the activists are “facing brutal police because the government is trying to save Jamaat after negotiations for power.”
Sarker, a graduate from Dhaka’s Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, is the convenor of the Gonojagoron Moncho, the movement demanding “trials and capital punishment of war criminals in 1971 and banning the politics of Jamaat Shibir in Bangladesh”.
Thousands of people, mostly youths, have staged protests in the Shahbag area of Dhaka from February last year, demanding capital punishment for Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah and all others charged by the International Crimes Tribunal with committing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.
Mollah was sentenced to death by the ICT and was later hanged in December last year, in the first execution of a war criminal in Bangladesh.
Sympathetic to the Jadavpur varsity protesters, Bangladeshi human rights activist Shahriar Kabir said though the issues triggering the Shahbag protests were “different and more complicated “, the expression of the students and the slogan-shouting reflect the commonality of students worldwide agitating against the establishment.
“If you see across the world, in London, New York, Cairo, Istanbul, students have participated in anti-establishment protests. Whenever there is some misdoing or wrong doing by the establishment, youth have come forward.”
“I am sympathetic to them as this is a fight for a just cause. The establishment didn’t do anything earlier when action was needed and the students protested,” he told IANS.
Kabir delivered a lecture Monday here at the International Convention on Upholding Secularism.
“I have been following the protests. The authorities should have been proactive and now I am seeing the Governor (K.N. Tripathi) is doing that now,” he said.
Ripples of the Jadavpur agitation were felt across the country with students of institutes like IIT-Bombay, IIT-Kanpur, Jawaharlal Nehru University and others, staging protests in their regions. Swiftly, the agitation went global with alumni and Indian diaspora pitching in via social networking sites.
After a successful show of strength and anger in the mammoth rally last Saturday, where reportedly a lakh participated, students will lead another march to the Lalbazar police headquarters here Sep 25.
Former students of the university settled in various corners of the US, Australia and Britain are set to take out similar marches.
The West Bengal government Monday announced a five-member panel to probe the alleged sexual harassment of a female student of the university, but the protesting students rejected it besides turning down the varsity registrar’s appeal to withdraw academic boycott.
The victim’s father, however, exuded confidence in the new committee, and participated in a students’ rally brought out by the Trinamool Congress Chhattra Parishad (TMCP) against “hooliganism in educational institutions”. He also met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the state secretariat “Nabanna”.
- IANS | Kolkata