Continued from Part 1
Another aspect of the hokkolorob movement that needs some special attention is the desperation that was visible to defame the vice chancellor at any cost. This was most starkly evident from the way the vice chancellor was being targeted for his alleged plagiarism. It is not entirely irrelevant here to point out that according to newspaper reports, India has a very high percentage of plagiarism in research work. So even if the VC was indeed guilty of this crime, it was hardly something that can be pinned on him entirely. Let us not forget that there is a very stifling atmosphere for most students in this country, both in terms of lack of academic freedom as well as the need to start earning quickly, as there is no social security. Even as we speak, many researchers around the country are protesting against the delay by the government in implementing the long overdue increments in scholarships. So plagiarism is an issue that has deeper socio economic implications and hence deserves a more serious and less populist engagement than the one that was seen during the hokkolorob movement.
Teachers of Durgapur BCET and BCETW had been protesting for several months against the unfair termination of 92 of them, whose only fault was raising their voice collectively against the injustices meted out to them as well as their colleagues by an administration which was outright fascistic in its approach. This movement had been receiving sporadic media attention but it was brought to the spotlight only when the teachers decided to take the radical step of “occupying” the WBUT campus in Salt Lake, followed by an indefinite hunger strike right in front of the office of the VC of WBUT. The participants of the movement had evidently been inspired by the Hokkolorob movement and they thought they could pressurize the government or the university to take action. Also, notably, it was only when news spread that “students of Jadavpur and Presidency” have come in support of the movement, that the media started taking some interest. The fact that the number of students from either of these institutions was actually lesser compared to the number of those from other institutions [including teachers from other private colleges offering solidarity] was never highlighted. Also, it was quite evident that not only the leadership but the rest of the protesters from BCET too seemed to depend overtly on a particular student leader who has become a face of student politics of the “third kind” in Kolkata. The teachers involved in the movement had a derogatory attitude towards the students. For them, the students who study in these private engineering colleges are no good, because they are not intelligent enough and hence do not come forward to protest. This, even though the students had actually shown solidarity with the terminated teachers and were facing the wrath of the management themselves. Apart from the elitism, another incident exposed the extremely narrow classist mindset of some of the teachers in the movement. Continue reading Recent Movements in Kolkata – Some Personal Reflections – Part 2