I am no Nero to play fiddle when State is held hostage, says West Bengal Governor

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar. File

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

Dhankhar speaks to media at Raj Bhawan on events at Calcutta University convocation

Describing the developments at the convocation of Calcutta University on January 28, which he was forced to leave owing to protests by students, as “shameful and unprecedented in the 163-year-old history of the institution”, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said that he was no Nero who would play the fiddle when such incidents occurred and “the State is held hostage by a few”.

“The question is, can we afford to forget what happened on January 28? It is not a political but an existential question … Can malicious elements be allowed to hijack academic institutions as it most painfully happened yesterday?” Mr. Dhankhar asked at a press conference organised at Raj Bhawan on Wednesday.

While pointing out that the chain of events during the convocation, where Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee was awarded a D. Litt by Calcutta University, “did not happen spontaneously”, the Governor said “seeing the ruckus on television, many [in Bengal] were disappointed”.

Students protest

On January 28, a group of students began protesting at the venue where the Governor was to honour Dr. Banerjee, forcing the former to leave. The Governor’s choice of words describing the incident and its effect varied from suggesting that he was in “excruciating pain and totally shaken by the incident” to “a dark period” which cannot be forgotten easily . He said he wanted to underscore “what doom it augurs for the State in particular”.

Mr. Dhankhar spoke of the “downward trend of educational institutions”, the exodus of talented students, and how, “because of a handful people, educational institutions are losing their sheen”.

On being asked how he could perform his Constitutional duties amidst non-cooperation from the State administration, Mr. Dhankhar emphatically said that no situation could deter him from performing his Constitutional duties and that, “The Governor is never on a back foot in the discharge of his duties.”

Reflecting on the developments on January 28, Mr. Dhankhar said that he chose to leave the venue to ensure smooth functioning of the convocation.

“If I had not signed the degree and asked the Vice-Chancellor to continue with the event, there would have been no convocation. I thought — let me not be the disrupter,” Mr. Dhankhar said. A few weeks ago, he was met with protests during the convocation of Jadavpur University and was unable to attend the ceremony as a result.

TMC reacts

State Education Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) secretary general Partha Chatterjee said that the Governor “must understand why the students are protesting against him...and he must ensure that his position is not compromised”.

“The fact of the matter is that he is tweeting the message of Centre, but he has been brought here for the good of the State. Every day, he is making barbed attacks and then inviting the Chief Minister for a cup of a tea,” Mr. Chatterjee said.

He, however, condemned the protest by the students.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 5:47:18 AM |

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