Statement condemning violence against teachers at Calcutta University

July 11, 2015

We, Radical Socialist, condemn the egregious incident of TMC-backed violence on teachers of Calcutta University on July 1, supposedly by students, but with large numbers who are simply thugs. These students and goons beat up teachers in the College Street campus in front of the Vice Chancellor, when CUTA affiliated teachers were demonstrating in protest of a removal of the Finance officer and the scrapping of his post.

This is not an isolated instance of TMC goons wreaking violence on teachers and students, but only the latest in a line of such shameful incidents in West Bengal under the TMC government. Earlier, such incidents had occurred in various colleges across West Bengal, the most reported incident being the police violence in Jadavpur University, where the Vice Chancellor had called in the police against a peaceful campaign by students protesting the VCs attempts to hush up a sexual assault case. This police violence led to a rapid spiralling of the movement, into the now famous #hokkolorob movement. But while Jadavpur may have been a major case and a particularly well reported one, there have been violence by the state machinery, and by party thugs, across the province. The death of SFI activist Sudipto Gupta while in the hands of the police took place in 2013. In the same year, TMC goons forced the principal of a Bolpur college to pass a large number of students who had failed their pre-university examination. The principal and two teachers of a North Dinajpur college were badly beaten up after the wife of a TMC leader was caught cheating in an examination.

This marks a lumpenisation of educational institutions, and indeed society at large. Students and teachers are repeatedly beaten, and women students have been threatened with rape. The general atmosphere and political culture is completely rotten with an upsurge of violent incidents. Dissident voices are labelled as CPI(M) conspirators or Maoists in cahoots with CPI(M). Sexual assault cases are dealt with in a cavalier way, often blaming the victim and accusing of bringing about false charges for political ends. On one occasion, a ruling party MP (female member) flippantly said that the victim of sexual assault actually had an argument with her customer, indicating that the aggrieved person is a sex worker, because who else is ever a recipient of sexual assault and violence. No question, of course, is raised about what our policy would be towards sex workers, if indeed that was the case.

Thousands of people who voted for a change (poriborton) have already been disillusioned. But, with the CPI(M) now reduced to a defunct and degenerated social democratic party, and having been rejected precisely because of their neoliberal turn and use of violence to impose that turn, they have very limited  legitimacy in the eyes of the common masses, even though on paper they still have large numbers of members in the party and in the mass organisations affiliated to the party.

In this situation, the response has sometimes been to sink into apathy. This will help nobody. Nor will it help to generate ultraleft rhetoric and produce tiny shows of protest that  do not make serious attempts to reach out to wide masses. The radical left need to realise that while the CPI(M) is a degenerated force, it still remains a reformist party, and historical experience shows that in times of defeat vast masses are unlikely to leave reformists spontaneously to move sharply left. It is only by patient action, by united front politics, that the radical left can gain the hearing of the forces that have traditionally supported the CPI(M). We call for principled defence of democratic rights in the campuses, defence of the autonomy of educational institutions from government intervention and hooliganism, and the need to relate these to the right of working people to decent education at affordable cost. We need to find common cause and wage struggles against the economic onslaught and the violence wreaked by the ruling party, within and outside of electoral politics. Only through such struggles can we convince the supporters of the social democratic left that our aim at this juncture is also to defend basic rights of all toiling people. Not by attacking the CPI(M) verbally from the sideline but by being the best defenders of rights in the campus alone can we win over the students, non-teaching staff, and progressive faculty.