Unprecedented protests were witnessed on Tuesday at the convocation of the University of Calcutta, when the students forced West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who is also the Chancellor of the University, to leave the venue without attending the programme. He was supposed to confer D. Litt on Nobel laureate Abhijit Binayak Banerjee. Later in the day, the Governor tweeted that the “obstruction was managed” while Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee refused to comment about the imbroglio.
Mr. Banerjee, an alumnus of the 150-year institution, was conferred the honour only after the Governor had left the venue and the protest eased. The students stopped the event for almost 45 minutes by protesting in front of the stage raising slogans against the Governor and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. “No CAA, no NRC, no NPR” was theme of many placards held by the students who refused to budge despite repeated appeals by authorities.
The event could start only after Vice-Chancellor Sonali Chakravarty Bondhopadhyay’s assurance that the “Governor will not be present at the ceremony”. She also said the Governor will not lead the traditional academic procession of the scholars and the Senate members.
The Governor waited in the green room behind the stage where the Nobel laureate said he is willing to accept the award from him. Mr. Dhankhar, however, decided to leave the venue to let the event continue. While delivering his convocation address, Mr. Banerjee touched on the protests and added that it was “little bit hard for him to entirely comprehend it”.
Mr. Dhankhar later tweeted that the convocation “was at Nazrul Mancha auditorium and not on the campus of Calcutta University”.
“There was total failure of the State machinery to maintain law and order. The obstruction was stage managed. This happens to constitutional head. Where are we heading!” he asked.
While the Governor was not allowed to preside over the convocation of the State-run Jadavpur University, this was the first time in recent public memory that a ruckus was created at the convocation of one of the oldest universities in the country.
Neither Ms. Banerjee nor State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee was present at the convocation. A number of scholars of repute who were present were divided on the protests.
“We were students between 1968 and 1971 and participated in protests. But this is unacceptable,” said Samir K Brachmachari, biophysicist and former director of the Council of Science and Industrial Research. Manabi Majumdar, a social scientist, said the protest “against CAA and NRC is justified”.
Nirmal Majhi, a Trinamool Congress MLA, faced protests by students at the Calcutta Medical College. Dr. Majhi, who heads the patient welfare committee of the hospital, responded to the protests by saying “dogs bark when an elephant passes by”.