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Babul Supriyo Made Sexist Remarks, Provoked Jadavpur University Violence: Protesting Students

The union minister says he was assaulted by Left-affiliated students at the university in Kolkata on Thursday when he went there to address a seminar organised by the BJP-linked ABVP.

Uday Singh Rana | CNN-News18@UdaySRana

Updated:September 20, 2019, 2:46 PM IST
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Babul Supriyo Made Sexist Remarks, Provoked Jadavpur University Violence: Protesting Students
Union Minister Babul Supriyo heckled by students at Jadavpur University in Kolkata on Thursday. (PTI)

New Delhi: A day after union minister Babul Supriyo was heckled, shown black flags and allegedly assaulted in Kolkata’s Jadavpur University, Left-affiliated students present at the protest told News18 that the BJP leader provoked violence and directed sexist remarks towards them. Supriyo had gone to address a seminar organised by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) – the student wing of the RSS – which has rejected the accusations.

Samanway Raha, the Kolkata district secretary of the Left-backed Students’ Federation of India (SFI), told News18 over the phone: “A peaceful protest had been organised because we knew Supriyo was coming to the campus. Students of Jadavpur University (JU), from across organisations, were present and preparing to show black flags (to the union minister).”

The demonstration, Raha said, agitated Supriyo who allegedly made sexist remarks in Bengali against female students who had gathered there. “Supriyo was provoking students. He saw that (the protest) and said he would not enter the hall unless all the protesting students left the campus.”

The fracas comes at a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), along with its affiliates, is pushing to make inroads into the state ahead of the 2021 assembly elections in which it will take on the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Left parties, after making big gains in this year’s Lok Sabha polls. Following the violence, BJP leaders hit out at chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the TMC, saying this was indicative of the prevailing “lawlessness” in Bengal.

Smiti Sinha, a third-year student of Comparative Literature at the university, backed Raha’s statement. “I am not affiliated to the SFI, but I was present at the protest,” she said. “We had planned to shout slogans and show black flags. We had formed a human chain and Supriyo could easily pass through. But he incited the violence that followed. He pushed a senior student, so protesters broke the human chain. He attacked the students and pulled their clothes. There was stampede because he pushed three or four students. He stood there and created a scene.”

Videos on social media showed Supriyo being pulled by the hair, pushed around and his shirt open as he tussled with an aggressive crowd. The confrontation also sparked incidents of vandalism and arson at the institution.

Even though an altercation had broken out, students said things had not gone out of control till the minister made the alleged remarks. “He (Supriyo) pushed his way out but students wanted a dialogue before he could leave,” said one of them. “We followed him, without any physical obstruction. He blasted threats at us and said some things directed at female students with sexual connotations.”

Supriyo, stating his allegations, told CNN-News18: “I was attacked by 6 different student unions. They pulled my hair, kicked, punched (me) and I am not even getting into the filthy language used by the girls there. What was deplorable was that there was no help from the state administration including the CM.”

The ABVP rejected the SFI’s claims. Suman Das, general secretary of the group’s Jadavpur University unit, said, “Our programme was an academic discussion and Babul Supriyo was the chief guest. Other guests were not allowed to enter. We did not have a problem with their protest, but it got violent. This was a conspiracy to stop our programme. Babul Supriyo was attacked twice – once before entering, and while leaving. He did not say anything of that (sexist) sort. These are false accusations being made against him.”

The governor, who is also the chancellor of the university, directed the vice- chancellor to ensure safe passage for Supriyo. Around 7 pm on Thursday, said students, governor Jagdeep Dhankhar made his way into the campus with additional security. It was only then that the minister was escorted to his car and he could leave the campus, even as the protesting students continued to demand an apology from him.

A group of students, allegedly belonging to the ABVP, broke into the campus through gate number four of the university. Raha said, “The ABVP goons heckled our comrades and burnt down the arts faculty students union room, which is run by the SFI.”

Sinha added, “A shopkeeper, who is very popular among students, was beaten by the ABVP. His shop outside gate number 4 was vandalised. This happened while the governor and his forces were still on campus. Then, after a while, Babul Supriyo and the governor left. Meanwhile, the ABVP pelted stones. Many students got injured during the violence.”

This, too, is an allegation that the ABVP denies. “Outsiders must have felt bad that a union minister was being held captive, so they entered the campus,” said one of its members. “As far as the union room violence is concerned, it was carried out by the SFI. They are Naxals, Maoists and anti-national. They painted the ABVP’s name in red – we never use the colour red. We use saffron. To tell you the truth, there is no democracy in Jadavpur University.”

The SFI called for further protests on Friday, to demand arrests for the vandalism that took place on campus. “Students were very scared when this was happening, but now we are determined. Until the ABVP goons are arrested, we will continue our protest,” Raha said.

Supriyo was initially stopped from entering the campus for around an hour-and-a-half from 2.30 pm by members of Left-leaning organisations — Arts Faculty Students’ Union (AFSU) and Students’ Federation of India (SFI) — who raised the slogan “Babul Supriyo, go back”, said sources from the university.

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