Published: 15th May 2019
This is who Kolkata students think vandalised the Vidyasagar statue
At a press conference conducted on Wednesday morning in Kolkata, TMC MP Derek O' Brien alleged that 'BJP goons' damaged the Vidyasagar statue and Amit Shah did pretty much the same, in reverse
A statue of the renowned philosopher and key figure of the Bengali Renaissance Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar was allegedly vandalised by BJP goons. At least that's what Trinamool Congress, the ruling party in West Bengal claims. A bust of the 19th-century social reformer was desecrated inside the Vidyasagar College premises on Tuesday evening and those pieces cannot be put back together. The pertinent question that still remains unanswered is 'Whodunit?'
The two parties have begun blaming each other for the violence that took place, with TMC MP Derek O'Brien saying that the ruling party in the centre has hurt Bengal's ethos and its pride by vandalising Vidyasagar's statue. At a press conference conducted on Wednesday morning in Kolkata, the TMC MP released videos to allege 'BJP goons' damaged the statue. In response, BJP supremo Amit Shah blamed the ruling party in West Bengal for the clash at a press conference in Delhi on the same day.
What do students have to say?
Above all of this, the students from the two prestigious institutions — Calcutta University and Vidyasagar College — feel that anarchy somehow staged a return to College Street on Tuesday evening in the wake of Amit Shah's roadshow. During the clash between the two parties, reminiscent of the turbulent Naxalism of the 70s, all the hullabaloo began around 6.20 pm on Tuesday evening when Amit Shah's vehicle neared the Calcutta University gate situated in Kolkata's iconic College Street. Students from the university and some members of the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) were staging a non-violent protest inside the gate of the campus only demanding that BJP should go back and not form a government in West Bengal.
"Students were present and some TMCP members too were present. They had black flags and black banners and were not shouting any kind of pro-TMC slogans. They were only reciting anti-BJP slogans like 'Amit Shah Go Back' and 'Chowkidar Chor Hai'. The police had already put up a barricade in front of the Calcutta University's gate in order to avoid any kind of problems. The students were protesting so that Shah would witness their opposition while passing through that area. The number of BJP supporters began to increase as Shah's vehicle approached the area. They also started to chant Jai Shri Ram and put up sound boxes, large cutouts of Shah and hoardings that blocked the students' protesting. Our students were 30 to 40 in number and they were over a thousand. Suddenly, bottles, sticks, stones and all forms of scrap materials on the road flew towards the students who were protesting. None of the CU students threw anything at the people participating in the roadshow. The BJP has alleged that the students were blocking their rally, but how? They were inside the gate, after a point the gates were blocked too when the perpetrators tried to break the gates and get in," explained an ex-student, who graduated from the university in 2016 and wanted to remain anonymous.
Speaking anonymously, a senior TMCP leader who was present during the protest on Tuesday evening, told us that even after the gates were blocked the perpetrators tried to enter the campus and beat up some of the students. He added that later when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the campus, she assured that action will be taken. Kolkata police have already arrested 16 people in connection with the incident and registered two First Information Reports (FIRs) against Shah.
An image from the scene after Vidyasagar's statue was vandalised (Pic: YouTube)
Sampurna Banerjee, a student pursuing her Masters in English at Calcutta University was on her way back home on Tuesday evening when all of this took place. She told us that the students were being asked to exit from the university's back gate as the protests were taking place at the front gate. "I saw the students protesting peacefully by reciting anti-BJP slogans and showing black flags. One of my friends was recording from where we stood inside the campus. We could hear 'Chowkidar Chor Hai' and then the next moment a bottle full of some kind of liquid came flying towards the students. That's when all the chaos began and the police started closing the university gates," she adds. She believes that there's a need to protest against this violence and thus she was joining the other students at the apolitical rally taking place on Wednesday at 4 pm in College Square.
Here's the other viewpoint?
However, there's an alternative narrative that has also been doing the rounds on social media as well. Some students and experts have also come up with contradictory viewpoints about the clash. State Yuva Morcha's (BJP) legal in-charge Tarunjyoti Tewari feels that the attack was motivated as he alleges that the students in CU were armed with sticks, stones and everything was planned from beforehand. "The gate was closed, the police was there. TMCP members were inside the college. How they can blame the BJP in the case of breaking the statue of Vidyasagar? TMCP and Naxals have a past record of breaking statues. They were present there and did the job. This incident was pre-planned by the TMC and TMCP to malign the BJP. I suppose there are CCTV cameras installed at the entrance of that college. Let the unedited footage be published. We will all know who the actual culprits are," says Tarunjyoti.
Another ex-student from the University, Sauvik Bhattacharya, who graduated in 2013, posted an old news report on his Facebook account that speaks about the incident in April 2013 when TMC workers ransacked Presidency University and that led to unprecedented violence. He posted that along with the caption 'People forget things so easily.' He told us that every party is almost the same and they are all responsible for what happened. "I am a staunch BJP supporter, but attacking educational institutions was wrong. I feel yesterday's incident was 70 per cent BJP's fault and 30 per cent TMC's," he says.
Although a lot of videos from the incident have been posted on social media, allegedly shot by eyewitnesses, no one clearly knows yet if they were morphed or real. Shiwangi Dutta, an ex-student from Vidyasagar College raises questions about why the CCTV footage from the time of the incident is not being released publicly so that people can differentiate between the truth and the lies. "I feel if the students at CU or at Vidyasagar College had not provoked, the BJP supporters would not have reacted in the way they did. Why would BJP intentionally create problems just five days before a crucial election for the Kolkata North constituency? Also, the college is closed for summer holidays, so why were students there inside the campus around 7:30-8 in the evening? A video shows three to four guys coming out of the college building and vandalising along with the BJP supporters who were seen wearing saffron t-shirts. So, it is impossible to understand what exactly happened," she says.