Santiniketan sees outcry against JNU attack, CAA

Visva-Bharati is a Central university and its chancellor happens to be the Prime Minister of India.

The new citizenship law and the mob attack in JNU have ignited protests even in Santiniketan — the abode of peace — which generally remains insulated from political unrest.

A place that has seen only candlelight marches in the past and where emotions are expressed mainly through art and poetry has, of late, been simmering with anger quite uncharacteristic of it, with students as well as teachers of the Visva-Bharati University openly protesting against first the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and now the violence in JNU.

Many walls on the campus, usually adorned with artwork, now bear anti-CAA slogans; students are openly making scathing remarks against the Central government in their Facebook posts; and Upasana Griha, the famous glass-walled prayer hall, has become the venue of angry demonstrations.

On Monday, more than 500 students and teachers — a considerable number by Santiniketan standards — gathered outside the prayer hall to express solidarity with the JNU students. Tagore’s songs were sung, slogans chanted and speeches made.

Visva-Bharati is a Central university and its chancellor happens to be the Prime Minister of India.

“We are a part of India, and whatever is on India’s agenda is on our agenda as well. Right now, our aim is to make the [Wednesday’s] nationwide strike a big success,” said Sudipta Bhattacharyya, professor of economics and president of the Visva-Bharati University Faculty Association, who was at the forefront of Monday’s protests.

“[On Wednesday] students are going to hold a demonstration outside the central office and we teachers are going to support them. I have already applied for leave so that I can participate in the strike,” Mr. Bhattacharyya, himself a former student of JNU, told The Hindu.

Student leader Somnath Sow, who belongs to the SFI, said he was carrying out a campaign to make the strike a success. “We are going to boycott classes tomorrow,” he said.

Quite ironically, Wednesday is also when the university is holding a lecture by BJP ideologue Swapan Dasgupta: he is going to speak in favour of the CAA. The protesting groups have given a call for its boycott.

“I’ve been teaching here for almost 20 years, but never before have I seen protests of this kind. The anger and participation is spontaneous. It’s not just a left-liberal movement; people who have no political affiliation are also joining in,” said a professor, who did not wish to be named.

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