Jadavpur unrest: Bengal sets up sexual assault probe, students unmoved

Last Updated 22 September 2014, 16:37 IST

The West Bengal government Monday announced a five-member panel to probe the alleged sexual harassment of a female student of Jadavpur University, but the protesting students rejected it besides turning down the varsity registrar's appeal to withdraw academic boycott.

The victim's father, however, exuded confidence in the new committee, and participated in a students' rally brought out by the Trinamool Congress Chhattra Parishad (TMCP) against "hooliganism in educational institutions". He also met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the state secretariat "Nabanna".

But sticking to their stand, the protesting varsity students refused to call off the boycott unless their demands for Vice Chancellor Abhijit Chakrabarty's resignation are met.

The students continued to press for an impartial, fresh probe into the alleged molestation by including student representatives - the demand which had prompted them to lay siege on the vice chancellor's office earlier this week triggering an alleged police assault that left many students injured Wednesday.

Announcing the committee, Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said it has been asked to submit a report "as early as possible, possibly within 72 hours (by Sep 25 morning)".

The announcement came a day after Chatterjee met the girl - a History (Hons) student who was allegedly dragged into the boys' hostel and molested Aug 28.

The panel will be headed by Calcutta University Vice Chancellor Suranjan Das. The other members are eminent Indologist Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri, School Service Commission chairman Subhiresh Bhattacharya, Bethune College principal Sangita Tripathi Mitra and St Xaviers' College mass communication and journalism department head Ananya Chakraborty.

The student's father urged the university students to withdraw their agitation.
"The chief minister has assured me of justice and I have full faith in the panel. I urge the students, who are like my children, to withdraw their agitation and help the return of normalcy in the university," he said.

The student's father, incidentally, had lent his voice to the agitating students demanding Chakrabarty's removal.

"I had asked for his removal because at that time he could not assure me that my daughter would get justice, but now I am hopeful," he said.

Meanwhile, adopting a placatory stance, university registrar Pradip Ghosh said the authorities were "open to hold discussions" on investigation into the alleged incident.
"Yes, we are open to discussions. We had spoken to a section of students Sep 19 and told them if they wanted to discuss with the VC, the matter of fresh probe into the events on the night of Aug 28 (alleged molestation), then he was open to talking to them.

"We also told them that the VC was willing to discuss other matters like internal complaints commitee. However we have not heard anything from them in that regard," Ghosh said.

In addition, he said the authorities would "try" to ensure the careers of students who were arrested during the police crackdown, are not affected by the legal action.

"We will provide medical support to the students, who were injured last week," he said.

The protestors said they would not relent unless a probe committee was constituted in accordance with the Supreme Court's Vishakha case guidelines and decided to hold a "citizens' convention" Wednesday and a rally Thursday to submit a deputation to the city police headquarters at Lalbazar deputation demanding withdrawal of the cases against 36 students who were arrested.

They also decided to seek suggestions from the university alumni scattered across the world through an international video conference on the future course of their agitation.

Two days after thousands walked in solidarity with University's student protestors, the TMCP took out a large counter-rally.

Starting from the Academy of Fine Arts in central Kolkata, the Trinamool students wing rally made its way to the Mayo Road but was devoid of any party flags or symbols. The route was the one taken by the Jadvapur University rallyists Saturday.

(Published 22 September 2014, 16:37 IST)

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