|Union members help candidates download and submit forms online at RBU on Wednesday afternoon. (Sanat Kr. Sinha)
An uneasy calm descended on Rabindra Bharati University a day after the vice-chancellor’s secretariat was vandalised, the initiative to restore order coming from the same Trinamul union that had stoked Tuesday’s violent protest against introduction of online admissions.
Many of the students who had joined their leaders in destroying furniture after switching off the CCTV server seemed to have undergone a change of heart overnight.
Some were spotted helping candidates for seats download admission forms, fill in details and submit them online. Others waited on the sidelines, ready to play campus guides.
The same forms that would earlier cost a candidate at least Rs 50 each were offered free to everyone. Those who entered the campus expecting the atmosphere to be tense were surprised to find the usually gruff “seniors” welcoming seat aspirants with a smile and an offer to help them complete the formalities.
“The change on the campus was remarkable….The union leaders were polite and willing to do everything to help us,” said a student who had beat a hasty retreat from the BT Road campus amid the vandalism on Tuesday.
So what triggered the transformation in 24 hours? “The administration’s prompt response to the vandalism sent out a message to the union members that such behaviour won’t be tolerated. They had little choice but to mend their ways,” said a professor.
Vice-chancellor Chinmay Guha, who had introduced online admissions to break the stranglehold of unions on the offline process, sent an SOS directly to the chief minister’s office after trouble broke out around 12.30 on Tuesday afternoon.
The police arrested Aliur Mandal, general secretary of the RBU unit of the Trinamul Congress Chhatra Parishad, and four other members identified as Ashikur Rehman, Dhiman Shil, Sashi Bhanu and Raja Saha.
All five were produced in a Sealdah court on Wednesday and remanded in police custody till June 16.
This is the first time in recent years that the police sought — and were given — custody of students involved in campus violence. The request seemed to take even the judge by surprise. He advised the police to reduce the custody period if they completed the inquiry before June 16.
The university is planning to expel the arrested five, based on the recommendation of the disciplinary committee.
“The five students will be served expulsion notices after the panel’s recommendation is approved by the executive council, the highest policy-making body. A meeting of the council is slated for June 16….The decision to expel them was unanimous,” vice-chancellor Guha said.
Those used to students browbeating the authorities into submission hailed the move, saying it would serve as an example for politically surcharged campuses across Bengal.
“This is a bold step towards making campuses free of violence,” said a professor at Calcutta University.
But will this be treated as a precedent? “The incident on Wednesday got publicity because it occurred in Calcutta and on one of the better known campuses. The challenge is to quell violence in little known campuses in the districts in the same manner,” the professor said.
That might be easier said than done given the legacy of campus politics in Bengal. In 34 years of Left rule, leaders of the ruling front remote-controlled most campus unions. Although the Mamata government has vowed to rid campuses of the influence of “mainstream politics”, local party leaders have been found meddling in union elections.
“Shankudeb Panda, state president of the Trinamul Congress Chhatra Parishad, has been running the show at RBU. All the arrested student leaders take orders from him,” said an official.
Panda declined to comment on the arrest and proposed expulsion of the five students allegedly backed by him.