Published: 26th August 2021
Suspended for 'breaking into prof's chamber', three VBU students stare at academic ruin after varsity rusticates them
The students — Falguni Pan, Rupa Chakraborty and Somnath Sow — said that they are still in shock and are scared of how this badly this would affect their career
A few days after the Visva Bharati University (VBU) rusticated three postgraduate students for three years for an "alleged act of gross indiscipline and misconduct", the students are busy preparing to say their piece and make their case — their representation which has to be submitted by August 27. Many political and student organisations have expressed solidarity with the three students and protested against the varsity's decision.
The students were suspended in January for "forcibly" opening or breaking into the chamber of a faculty member 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 inquiry is complete or for the duration of three months, whichever is earlier. While the notice did not mention the faculty member's name, it did mention that the chamber was sealed by the administration — Dr Sudipta Bhattacharyya was suspended last year pending an enquiry and his chamber was sealed.
The students — Falguni Pan (I MA Economics), Rupa Chakraborty (II MA Hindustani Classical Music) and Somnath Sow (I MA Economics) — said that they are still in shock and are scared of how this badly this would affect their career. While Falguni is contemplating admission in other universities, Rupa said that the entire incident has taken a heavy toll on her mental health. The students are in touch with advocate and Rajya Sabha MP Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya and advocate Shamim Ahmed for legal assistance.
Falguni, whose father is a farmer, is planning to secure admission to colleges outside West Bengal as well. "But my father has spent almost one lakh rupees in the past year for my admission and accommodation. Even if I get admitted to another college now, I will not only lose a year but also lose so much money. That's a huge amount. On top of that if this issue does not get resolved and goes to court, there are additional legal expenses," said Falguni.
Rupa, on the other hand, has not thought about what happens if the university sticks to their decision of suspending them. "I still cannot comprehend why we are being rusticated," she said. "This is a harrowing experience and I can't think about my next step now. We are in discussion with the legal experts about filing our reply as of now," added Rupa, whose father is a rural librarian in Bankura.
Somenath, Falguni's classmate, is concentrating on the legal discourse. "We are being guided by Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya and Shamim Ahmed. Advocate Arunabha Ghosh had also offered help," he added. The varsity has given the students a deadline of 1.30 pm on August 27 to file a response to the letters sent to them, failing which the punishment will be implemented immediately.
Falguni said that he and his friends were actually 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 against 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," Falguni had said the last time Edex spoke to him in April when they were protesting the extension of their three-month suspension. "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," he had added.
Both left students' organisations and the TMC have come out in solidarity with the students. While the Students' Federation of India (SFI) protested in front of the Presidency University on August 25, the students of Jadavpur University have refused to study books written by Dr Bidyut Chakrabarty, the VBU VC who is at the helm of the action against the students and even a few professors who have been suspended. TMC's Birbhum district president Anubrata Mandal went a step further to say that they will not only support the movement against the VC and asking for his removal but also gherao him in his own house.