Published: 23rd April 2021
Might lose a year, give up education: Students protest as VBU extends their suspension for another quarter
The students were suspended in January for "forcibly" opening or breaking into the chamber of a faculty from the Department of Economics and Politics pending enquiry
Three students of West Bengal's Visva Bharati University have been on a sit-in protest since April 22. All three postgraduate students — Falguni Pan, Somenath Sow and Rupa Chakraborty — were first suspended for three months on January 14 for allegedly breaking into a suspended professor's cabin on January 9. On April 19, they claimed to have received a "dubious" mail with no signature that extended their suspension by three more months. The students said that they have already lost a semester for something they claim they were not involved in and they would lose an entire year if their suspension is extended. If the administration does not pay heed, the students said they will be "forced to resort to hunger strikes".
The students were suspended in January for "forcibly" opening or breaking into the chamber of a faculty from the Department of Economics and Politics which was sealed pending an enquiry. The notice from the Proctor said that the students will be suspended till the enquiry in complete or for the duration of three months, whichever is earlier. While the notice does not mention the faculty's name, it does mention that the chamber was sealed by the administration — Dr Sudipta Bhattacharyya was suspended last year pending an enquiry.
While an enquiry committee was instituted, the students said that there was no formal letter informing them of it. "Suddenly, we were in a room with ten angry and vindictive people. We wrote a letter to the committee and walked out. Another committee was constituted later with external members on it. But they never came out with a report. After the tenure of the suspension was over, I wrote to the administration on April 19 saying that my suspension is over and I would like to join class from April 20. That very night, at 11.34 PM, I recieved a mail from the "Proctor's Office" which extended our suspension tenure for another three months. But the mail had no official signature or mentioned who is writing it. It seemed dubious. But we have been asked to stay on suspension since then. We wrote to the administration but in vain," he added.
Falguni said that he and his friends were suspended because they were part of a protest on January 9. "There was a dispute about a road which was given to the VBU by the state but after deliberations from the locals, it was given back to the PWD. The VC was protesting that. But he also forced every staff member to attend the protest and threatened punitive action if they are not present. We, along with the Visva Bharati Students' Unity, a students' body, protested at the same time just opposite to the VC's protest site asking him why were the staff being exposed to the virus at a time when the institutions are not functioning at full strength to stop the spread of COVID-19," explained Falguni. "We then went on with our day and never went back to the department. We only got to know about the said misconduct when we received the letter," added the first-year postgraduate student of Economics. While Somenath is Faguni's classmate, Rupa is pursuing her Masters in Classical Music.
The students said that they have already lost a semester and losing one more would mean that they would have to repeat a year. "We cannot afford to do that. We would have to quit. The department is also not coming forward because they are scared of the consequences," added the student. "We have tried the legal route but the High Court is closed so there's no use. Our next resort is going for a hunger strike," he said.