Antisocials, goondaism behind rise in campus violence: Student leaders

Kolkata
Violence in educational campuses in West Bengal has reached an unprecedented level in the last one and a half years, say political observers and leaders of various students unions.

Since mid-2011, around 200 incidents of campus violence have been recorded in the state. SFI, Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCCP) and Chhatra Parishad (CP)members were found to be involved in the incidents.

In comparison, only around 50 such incidents were reported in 2010-11. However, sources pointed out that the political climate at that time - the Left was on the backfoot and poriborton was in the air - possibly led to an increase in the incidents of violence over previous years.

The sources marked not just a rise in frequency of violence, but also a change in the character of student unions. They felt that student unions in colleges had been infiltrated by antisocial elements since the time the Trinamool Congress-led regime came to power.

Going by figures collected from the education department, there are 323 state-run colleges in Bengal. However, in 2012, elections to student unions could be held in only 149 of the colleges. The SFI managed to file nominations in 16 colleges and it won in 11 colleges. In 300 colleges, TMC won uncontested. The Congress-backed Chhatra Parishad managed to retain its hold in seven colleges in Murshidabad and Malda.

From September onwards, after the break in alliance between the Congress and Trinamool, the relationship between the two corresponding student unions soured, aggravating the clashes between the CP and TMCCP.

Now, ahead of West Bengal's byelection and panchyat polls, the spectre of campus violence is looming large. And this time in a more deadly avatar, feel many political observers.

Madhuja Sen Roy, state president SFI, said, "We have seen a change in the functioning of students' unions in the past one and a half years. During our regime, students of various unions fought with each other, but there were no antisocial elements involved. But now, in most of the student unions under the control of TMCCP, antisocial elements have entered and thus the essence of student politics has been lost."

Rohit Roy, All India President of Chatra Parishad, said, "Earlier campus violence revolved around student politics in colleges and universities. Be it privatisation of university or reforms in the educational sector, students always opposed reforms that were against students' interests, and they placed their demands through protests and rallies. But now campus violence is no longer limited to rival student groups. It has morphed into a new culture of heckling teachers. The Raiganj College incident is an example."

According to TMC MP Somen Mitra, student politics is now done by outsiders and criminals who have no respect for students and teachers. "In the run-up to the byelection and panchayat elections, campus violence has become more violent," he added.

Economist Avirup Sarkar said, "Campus violence nowadays is far more dangerous than that of the '70s. At that time student politics was not so vindictive. The main casualty of this violence is education. Students are causing severe damage to their careers by indulging in violence."

Sujit Ghosh, state president of AIDSO, felt that students are now more interested in goondaism than idealism. "The students' unions are more inclined towards their political identity rather than strongly protesting against certain causes for the welfare of students," he said.

Dubious record

Since mid-2011, around 200 incidents of campus violence have been recorded in the state. SFI, Trinamool Chhatra Parishad and Chhatra Parishad members were found to be involved.

In comparison, only around 50 such incidents were reported in 2010-11.

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