Author : Anonymous
Date: 28th August 2014
The Arts Faculty Students Union (AFSU) cultural fest was in full swing. It was a night of revelry. While the crowd went crazy to the tunes of music, scarier screams echoed in the darker corners of the campus. A girl was allegedly molested by a group of ten boys inside the boy’s hostel of the varsity and her male friend was beaten black and blue.
The news of the incident spread like wildfire. In the following days, a General Body meeting, fondly referred as a GB was called for. The GB came to a consensus that the authorities had to initiate the procedure for an impartial investigation of the matter to ensure justice for the victim. It was also decided that the students will peacefully campaign against gender inequality and violence on campus by performing plays, reciting poems, painting posters etc.
Date: 11 September 2014 to 15th September 2014.
The peaceful campaign against gender inequality and violence budded and bloomed. Echoes of protest were heard in the nook and cranny of the varsity. Walls came alive with graffiti. Songs of protest reverberated in the winding corridors. Through all these days, groups of students stayed back in campus at night, braving the natural elements, ignoring their hunger and thirst, hoping for the respected Vice Chancellor to lend his ear to their demands and initiate a fair, just and impartial investigation of the mishap that had occurred on the fateful night of the 28th. No official or academic activity was brought to a standstill.
The victim alleged that two members of the Executive Council or the EC, formed in the aftermath of the incident, had paid an uninformed visit to her home and badgered her with ‘offensive’ questions regarding her attire etc.
The students demanded the inclusion of a retired judge, a women’s rights activist and a psychologist among the EC members, in keeping with the UGC guidelines. Needless to say, the entire students campaign was ignored by the authorities, let alone their demands be heard!
The movement which had begun was hash-tagged “hokkolorob” which roughly translates into “let the voices be raised”. With each passing day, the movement gathered more and more supporters. With no political agenda and banner, this was a movement solely driven by the sensitive issue which lay at its core.
Date: 16th September 2014
After 150 plus hours of peaceful protest and repeated refusal of the authorities to enter a discussion with the students, it was decided that the peaceful sit-in demonstration in front of the official building of Aurobindo Bhavan would continue indefinitely until the respected Vice Chancellor agreed to initiate a meeting with the students and listen to their demands. Hours flew by. Again, it is to be noted that no official activity was hampered during the process, none of the academic or the non-academic stuff were prevented from entering Aurobindo Bhavan. The protesting students took care to ensure that all employees working inside the very same building were allowed a safe exit. The movement, at no point of time turned violent. The aim of the movement was not the impairment of the academic and non-academic activities of the campus.
The protestors refused to let go of their cause. Night crawled into the campus like a fugitive. The respected Vice Chancellor asked (read threatened) the students to ‘disperse’, failing which he said he would have to summon his ‘forces’ against them. At around 2 am, the lights in the porch of Aurobindo Bhavan went off. What followed was a mass brutalization of the protestors gathered in front of Aurobindo Bhavan that night. Clothes were ripped apart. Women were groped. Boots and batons rained down upon unsuspecting students. Around forty students, including a girl were arrested and kept in custody all night. About thirty seven students had to be admitted in a nearby hospital with grievous injuries. Those who were less injured or had somehow escaped the wrath of the armed men, tended to their injured but not fallen protestors. The night air was thick with trauma and disbelief.
Date: 17th September 2014
After the initial hiccups over getting the arrested released from the lock-up, a peace rally, some 7000 strong marched from the Jadavpur University grounds towards Dhakuria-Golpark. The rally was joined by eminent theatre personalities, artists, academicians and people from various walks of life. Stalwarts of the society condemned the act of police violence on campus in various talk shows in the media.
Date: 18th September 2014
Another peace rally thronged the roads of the city, this time joined by numerous school students along with colleges and universities, in solidarity with the Jadavpur University students, number of protestors increasing to roughly ten thousand.
Date: 20th September 2014
This day saw one of the biggest peaceful, apolitical rallies in the history of student’s movements in West Bengal. Accumulating at the cultural hub of the city, Nandan, over 1 lakh students and supporters marched to Raj Bhavan, braving the weather gods as the city got drenched in incessant torrential showers for the entire day. All of Kolkata came together to raise their voices against gender inequality and police brutality on campus. Students from JNU, Presidency and innumerable other colleges and universities from all over the country marched for a cause. A delegation comprising of student representatives went to meet the Honourable Governor of Bengal, Mr. Keshari Nath Tripathy. The outcome of the meeting was a ray of hope for the students as the Hon’ble Governor promised to look into the matter and ensure a fair treatment of the whole affair.
This, however, was not to be the end of the fight for justice. At this juncture, the fight had only begun! It was only the first phase of the Hokkolorob Protests.
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