All is not lost in the ongoing circus in Presidency college/university. At long last, Shri Kayan Maitra, in Ei Samay 29/8/2015, has beautifully analyzed the student action, raised pertinent questions and lamented that no sense of decency remains in the campus that could contain the Frankenstein of current mode of student movement in West Bengal.
Has Society endorsed such insanity, indiscipline, vulgarity, impertinence and affront by students? That is the principal question that has been raised.
These incidents are not new, really. The origin can be traced back to 60s. when, leftists started breaking, both literally and figuratively, all the icons of Bengali society; the icons in terms of humaneness, education, culture and tradition; and, in fact, everything decent and nice, the very life blood of Bengali heritage. That was also the time when unbridled politicization of students was started by all political parties. One can recall that the frenzy did not spare even one of the most eminent economist and philosopher academician, i.e., Late Prof. Amlan Datta from utter humiliation and physical intimidation. Sadly, this was aided and abetted by disgruntled academicians collaborating with the regime.
An alternative view of how college / university need to be run is to look at it as an organization / institution where teaching is the product, teachers are the workers/producers and students the consumers/buyers. The management in private or public will have a Board of Governors comprising eminent educationists, management and financial experts and technical and scientific experts, to run the organizations. The selection and nomination of these governors would be the sole prerogative of the management. It is to be noted in this connection that while teachers as workers are stakeholders, the students as consumers/ buyers cannot be one.The conclusion is that student movements are redundant.
In fact, it was always the people with self interest within the academia as well as the politics i.e. those with interest in power and career without any responsibility and accountability that backed and led the students. Later, the students themselves started realizing that they also can utilize these movements as paths to easy success in terms of power and career without responsibility and accountability.
In the 60s, when I was a boarder in Hindu hostel, a famous Nakshal student leader who acquired a sort of all knowing ‘father’ figure image used to come and spend many hours sitting in the lawns of the hostel with inmates and other students. I often chatted with him but was never his follower. There would often be in the midst of this group a dear friend of mine who was always with ‘the father’ all through the movement. He was really an outstanding boy gifted with multiple talents: he had stood 2nd in HS exam. used to make sketches, write poems —- a wonderful and lovable character. The sad part of it was that it was he who suffered the most during the course of the movement; and, he was not there in the race for leadership. ‘The father, of course even today continues to be a leader, as always.
I remember in those turbulent days I had another Naxal friend, a boy from Kalna. A brilliant performer and a most lovable, kind hearted and lively boy , he unfortunately carried a limp. , He was a Naxal; but I felt, he had a feeling of inadequacy and , therefore ,sought recognition by acting as a fearless Naxal soldier. Unfortunately, his father was a Jotedar. One night he came to me fully inebriated and crying—- he asked me as a true Naxal should he or should he not kill his father. Alas, there can’t be any kind answers in such frenzied and hateful movements created by successfully installed leaders like ‘the father’
There was at that time one G C dada if I still remember correctly, who used to work in one of those old leather suitcase selling shops in the College Street Crossings besides the then YMCA hostel. I thought he was kind of a theoretician revolutionary. One day he was crying and weeping: he told us that his best-trained Action Squad boy had just been killed in action by Police. Alas, what is wrong and what is right!
In all the above three instances, the concerned leaders got away without any responsibility and accountability but at the same time furthering their self interests. The then student leaders who now are established political leaders, both in and outside Govt., could perhaps touch their heart and tell us were all this worth?
This question has been raised by Shri Kalyan Maitra. If it represents/ encourages a beginning of some self introspection, then there is a glimmer of hope.
~ By Sudip Bhattacharyya, Author is a commentator on social, political and economic issues