Kolkata: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Swapan Dasgupta, Vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty and a few other BJP leaders were confined for more than six hours on Wednesday at the Visva Bharati University in Birbhum district by members of the CPI(M)-backed students' union. Dasgupta was supposed to speak on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as part of the Visva Bharati Lecture Series.
However, soon after he reached the campus students started protesting against him. The university's Student Federation of India (SFI) unit leader Somnath Sau said the students will not allow anyone who "promotes hatred among communities" to spread propaganda on the soil of Visva Bharati, which stands for the ideals of Rabindranath Tagore.
Sau said, “The Rajya Sabha MP was invited to deliver a lecture on ‘The CAA-2019: Understanding and Interpretation’ at the university’s Lipika Auditorium at 4pm on Wednesday. Sensing trouble, the vice-chancellor secretly changed the venue to Social Welfare Department.”
“Some of the students of the Social Welfare Department were threatened by BJP leaders for protesting against the VC for inviting Dasgupta to deliver a lecture on a day when the Left Front had called a nationwide strike over the same issue. This aggravated the situation and a large number of SFI members gathered in front of the department and demanded an unconditional apology. They are still inside the department and now the VC has expressed his desire to meet us.”
A teacher of the university said Dasgupta was kept at a guest house as the agitation continued. However, university authorities were not available for comments.
There were reports of other Left-backed student unions having joined the agitation and demanding the VC's resignation over the issue.
Amid chants of 'Go back' slogans by students, Dasgupta said, “I came here to deliver a lecture on CAA. This was not a political event, but purely a part of the Visva Bharati Lecture Series. Those who are agitating don’t want to discuss the issue democratically and therefore they are protesting. I am ready to talk to the students, but at present, the situation is not ideal. I will not go into any kind of confrontation. This is not the way they should agitate. I came here after being invited by the university officials and you ask them why they changed the venue.”
When asked about why BJP leaders were present for the event, Dasgupta said, “Yes they came here. There is nothing to hide. What is wrong in it? I don’t understand what is the issue.”
He also put out a few tweets from inside the guest house. His first tweet read, “How does it feel to have a mob attack a peaceful meeting on CAA and intimidation students? This is what is happening to a meeting I am addressing at Vishwa Bharati now. Locked into room now with mob outside.”
How does it feel to have a mob attack a peaceful meeting on CAA and intimidation students? This is what is happening to a meeting I am addressing at Vishwa Bharati now. Locked into room now with mob outside.— Swapan Dasgupta (@swapan55) 8 January 2020
A few hours later, he said, “There were nearly 70 people locked inside a room of the university for the crime of attending an official, university-convened lecture by him on CAA. This includes the VC.”
There are nearly 70 people locked inside a room in Vishwa Bharati, Santiniketan, for the crime of attending an official, university-convened lecture by me on CAA. This includes the VC. There is a howling mob outside itching for confrontation. pic.twitter.com/3eLBHPdIHT— Swapan Dasgupta (@swapan55) 8 January 2020
Expressing concern, Director of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation (SPMRF), Dr. Anirban Ganguly wrote on Twitter, “@swapan55 & many senior faculty members & students have been confined inside, howling SFI cadres have pelted stones...are menacingly shouting & preventing people from coming out...They want to do a repeat #JNU #LEFTISTS_ARE_TERRORISTS.”
President of the Visva-Bharati University Faculty Association, Sudipta Bhattacharyya, said, “I was also invited to deliver a lecture today, but I deliberately refused it as we had extended out support to the bandh. I personally feel the VC should have kept a separate day for Dasgupta’s lecture, considering the nationwide bandh on the same issue on which the MP was supposed to speak.”
He added, “Why only a BJP representative was invited to speak on the contentious issue and why not panellists from other parties and platforms. I feel the panel was one sided. I would like to say that if the situation aggravates, then only the VC will be held responsible. I would like to stress that the VC unnecessary tried to provoke the situation by keeping the event on Wednesday.”
When asked on how the situation worsened, Bhattacharya said, “I heard that some of the BJP leaders threatened some of the students with dire consequences.”
The Vice Chancellor of Viswa Bharati University, Bidyut Chakraborty had invited Swapan Dasgupta, who is an MP and BJP spokesperson to give a lecture on the benefits of the NRC and CAA. The students took a stand against this clearly biased propaganda being spread in a place which was home to Rabindranath Tagore.
“Also, Visva Bharati is a central university with CISF recently given charge of security. The VC has not summoned them, nor the police. So it’s an internal problem,” the statement added.
Despite repeated attempts the vice-chancellor was not available for his comment.
Governor Jagdeep Dhankar said the situation was worrisome and reflective of the worsening situation of law and order in the state.
Talked to DG Police Virendra Kumar about serious situation of confinement of Rajya Sabha MP Dr. Swapan Dasgupta along with VC Viswa Bharati and many others for several hours, and urged him to take swiftly necessary steps. Such anarchy and failure of law and order is worrisome.— Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) 8 January 2020