Kolkata: A day after pro-Afzal Guru slogans were heard in the prestigious Jadavpur University, its campus was on the boil on Wednesday as posters “seeking independence” for Kashmir and demanding ‘freedom’ for Manipur and Nagaland were put up by some students, and subsequently torn by a rival group shouting “Bharat Mata ki jai”.
Vice chancellor Suranjan Das dismissed Tuesday’s slogans eulogising parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru Aas the handiwork of “fringe elements” and ruled out any action including calling in the police. However, police said the matter was being “thoroughly investigated”.
The posters appearing on Wednesday morning were purportedly put up by a group which called itself “Radical”.
“Hum kya chahe, Azadi/Kashmir ki Azadi/Manipur ki Azadi/Nagaland ki Azadi” (We demand independence/Kashmir’s independence/Manipur’s independence/Nagaland’s independence), said one poster.
Another empathised with Afzal Guru and 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon, both of whom have been hanged.
“If the Gujarat mass murderers, those who hanged Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon are patriots, and if the students of Kashmir seeking independence are anti-nationals, then we are all anti-nationals.”
A third poster referred to a quotation of Mao Tse Tung and declared: “We are in favour of freedom fo all oppressed people.”
Some of the students took out a rally denouncing the “fascist” Narendra Modi government and decrying the arrest of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar and the atrocities “brought down” on JNU students by the BJP and other arms of the “Sangh parivar”.
“I don’t think this is a secessionist slogan. If I am an Indian citizen, I have freedom of expression. People of Kashmir are being tortured every day. If they want freedom, I support it. I don’t think this is an anti-national step or slogan,” said Zubi Saha, a member of Radical.
A little later, another group of students carrying the tricolour and shouting “Bharat Mata ki jai” went round the campus and even staged a sit-in outside the university’s administrative building Aurobindo Bhavan.
They shouted slogans demanding exemplary punishment for those indulging in “anti-national” activities and raising secessionist slogans in the campus.
The group — though small in number — then tore up the pro-Guru, pro-Memon and other posters supporting independence of Manipur and Nagaland and condemned the pro-Guru slogans heard on Tuesday.
Instead, they put up posters condemning the Radicals.
“We are from Jadavpur University. We don’t support anti-nationalists,” a poster said.
Some of them also cried “Pakistan murdabad, Hindustan Zindabad”.
Angry over the tearing of posters, the first group then took out a big rally that went around the campus, alleging the posters were torn by those with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad connections.
Meanwhile, the vice chancellor claimed certain “fringe elements” had indulged in the pro-Guru sloganeering on Tuesday and called it “insignificant”.
“Some individuals had convened the rally. That rally was not officially convened by the students’ union. They have told me,” Das told the media here.
“I have seen in the media that a large section of students who were present in the rally, including some of the office bearers of the students union, have unequivocally said they have completely disassociated from these anti-national slogans. They are not supporting it,” added Das.
“If in a rally, some fringe elements gave certain slogans, then that is inconsequential. If some fringe elements have given such slogans, then condemning the entire student body and maligning the image of the university is also unexpected and inconsequential.”
The context in which they had rallied was to show solidarity with students nation-wide for the right to express themselves, clarified Das.
He ruled out lodging any police complaint, saying university was a place for rational thinking and free speech.
Police said they were looking into the matter.
“Though no case has been lodged, we are thoroughly investigating the matter. If we find legal action is needed we will act,” a senior Kolkata police officer told the media.
The BJP said those who raised “anti-India slogans” at Jadavpur University deserved a “good thrashing”.
“What has happened is highly condemnable. It’s a shame that some students raised anti-India slogans. Very soon, come people will give them (Jadavpur students) a good thrashing, which they deserve. It is only then that they will understand the true value of nationalism,” said BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.
Meanwhile, a number of Left student unions brought out a rally demanding release of Kanhaiya Kumar in solidarity with the students in JNU.
The CPI-M backed Students Federation of India, CPI supported All India Students Federation and the Revolutionary Socialist Party’s arm Progressive Students Union were among those who took part in the rally from College Square to the Y Channel in the city centre.