Protesters of the Trinamool Congress Employees' Union showed black flags to Dhankhar, who is the chancellor of the varsity, and blocked his car at gate number 5 of the campus at 10.30 am on Tuesday.
Shouting slogans against the CAA and waving black flags, protesters blocked West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar’s entry into Jadavpur University where he had gone to attend the annual convocation, prompting him to denounce the incident as “total collapse of rule of law”.
Amid his frequent run-ins with the Mamata Banerjee government, Dhankhar arrived at the university, a hotbed of anti-CAA and anti-NRC protests, only to find his way blocked by around 50 people, said to be members of Shiksha Bandhu Samiti, an affiliate of the ruling TMC’s trade union wing. “Go back”, “No NRC, No CAA”, the protesters chanted as Dhankhar stepped out of his car to reach the venue.
As the protesters were unrelenting, the governor dialled Vice Chancellor Suranjan Das, and later accused him of being a “silent spectator” to the unsavoury drama. “We cannot allow such a system to be there….There can’t be complete lawlessness. There’s is total collapse of rule of law,” a livid Dhankhar told journalists while seated in his car before leaving the campus in a huff.
He said he was surprised how a small group of people could play “havoc” with the future of students. Dhankhar also said none of the protesters was a student, while expressing “shock and surprise” at the turn of events. “The university administration is doing nothing at all. They must have control on their employees. They can visit employees with action. We cannot allow such a system to be there,” an angry and exasperated Dhankhar told reporters.
The governor, who was heckled and shown black flags twice at the university on Monday, chose to ignore the warnings and visited the place again. Protests against Dhankhar had come a day after he declared as “illegal and invalid” the varsity’s decision to defer the December 24 special convocation because of possible trouble. However, the convocation did take place but without the presence of the governor, who is the chancellor of state universities.
In a series of tweets, Dhankhar deplored the occurences at the university. “Am surprised that inspite of my directive to VC to go by rule book and abide by my direction as regards Convocation, the same has been started. In utter helplessness as of now I am leaving the Jadavpur University campus. Those concerned must soul search,” he wrote on the microblogging website.
He also claimed the vice-chancellor was in a “passive mode and a silent spectator to the unseemly spectacle”, and alleged the whole episode was “orchestrated by powers that be”. “Rule of law is nowhere in sight,” he added. Dhankhar was on the campus also on Monday to attend a meeting of the University Court, its highest decision-making body.
After he could not attend the Court meeting due to the agitation by students and the non-teaching staff, he had called up the vice-chancellor and requested him to hold the meeting at Raj Bhavan. However, the members of the Court decided against it as the meeting had already begun on the JU campus. The West Bengal government had recently trimmed the governor’s power as the chancellor of universities, notifying a set of new rules governing his interaction with vice-chancellors.
Under the new rules, the chancellor cannot intervene in the day-to-day affairs of universities, nor can he advise university officials directly. All communication between the chancellor and senior university officials will also have to be routed through the state’s higher education department.
Dhankhar’s visit to Jadavpur University in September to “rescue” Union Minister Babul Supriyo from a clutch of frenzied students had set off a verbal duel between the state government and Raj Bhavan, with recriminatory tweets being exchanged between the two almost on a daily basis.
Dhankhar had recently berated Banerjee for her decision to launch street protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the proposed pan-India National Register of Citizens, insisting that a person occupying a constitutional position should desist from such action.
As violent protests raged in West Bengal over the new citizenship law, Dhankhar had advised the chief minister to focus on restoring law and order instead of engaging in “unconstitutional and inflammatory” actions.