Sometime around 5 PM on Thursday, my mother called to tell me that there was some ruckus going on at Jadavpur University and Union Minister Babul Supriyo was in the middle of it. I told her what anyone aware of Kolkata would tell her, “Mom, it’s Jadavpur University. There is a ruckus there every other week. Don’t worry about it.”
Somehow, my mom wasn’t entirely pacified and she was extremely angry with how the ‘protesters’ were behaving. It was only later in the evening when I had the time to look into the matter in detail that I realized that the issue was far bigger than I previously imagined it to be. The visuals coming from Jadavpur were outrageous, to put it mildly. They are nearly always bad but this time around, there was something particularly sinister about them.
One of the first visuals I saw showed Babul Supriyo standing in front of the media and one ‘protester’ grabbed him by his hair and pulled him.
The ‘protesters’ didn’t stop at that. By the end of it, Supriyo’s shirt was torn open by the mob heckling him. Under no circumstances can tearing the shirt of a Union Minister be considered a legitimate form of protest.
One wonders at this point when Babul Supriyo decided to take the leap of faith and join politics, did he ever imagine he would find himself in such a situation? Most celebrity politicians do not invest too much time into building their own base, much less risk getting assaulted by violent goons.
This is not even the first time that Babul Supriyo has risked physical injury to perform his duty as an elected representative. During the General Elections, his car was vandalized, allegedly by Trinamool workers, when he visited his constituency, Asansol. In March last year, he was prevented from meeting victims of communal violence and entering his constituency. Again, he was allegedly assaulted by the Police.
Coming back to the current situation, the moment in the episode when Babul Supriyo shines through is when he addresses the ‘protesters’ in front of the media. He could be seen standing right in the middle of the chaotic mob and confront them about their biases. There was a certain amount of anger in his demeanour and yet, he remained calm enough to not deviate from the issue at hand and was careful to not further escalate the situation.
“These are kids,” he said, “These people are hot-headed but if there isn’t no opposition, who are you going to fight against, Bhai? The opposition is necessary.” He extended a hand of reconciliation and yet, was firm enough to tell them in strong words that their behaviour was totally out of order.
“Didi Modi, we don’t respect anyone,” one ‘protester’ told him in an extremely rude manner. He replied, “Your bravado won’t work with me, talk decently.” To another ‘protester’ he said, “You cannot abuse me this way. Have I abused anyone? Have my security guards done anything wrong? You don’t know these Bangla abuses, you’ll teach me now? Should I give one or two?”
To another ‘protester’ who had raised the question of NRC, he replied, “You are asking me about NRC, tell me what it is. What is the full form of NRC? Tell me. Tell me what is the full form of NRC. You don’t even know it, do you? And here you are talking about the NRC.” To yet another, he said, “You are doing drama here. They won’t show you on television. Ei, they won’t show you on television.”
At one point, it appeared as though he was mocking the ‘protesters’ but it was quite evident that he had grown tired of it all and was just being extremely honest. “I won’t go anywhere. First, you learn some decency and then, I will leave,” he said. “I can go anywhere, I am the Minister for Climate and Forest. I have come to see these things,” he said on another occasion pointing towards the trees. “Argue logically, don’t say stupid things,” he added.
He was much more aggressive with the college administration than he was with the ‘protesters’. He accused them of deliberately trying to foment chaos and held them responsible for the deteriorating law and order situation. Even in the heat of the moment, Supriyo managed to keep a calm head to consider the implications of his every action. “If I try to move ahead,” he told one of them, “you’ll prove and create a commotion here. I won’t give you that opportunity.”
Babul Supriyo had the most iconic moment of his political career thus far when he lay on the hood of his car, exuding an air of nonchalant confidence as the chaos continued around him. “I am not scared of you,” his body language conveyed clearly, “this is not your bastion anymore”. The Leftists, quite naturally, didn’t like it.
As much as the focus remained on Babul Supriyo, it is also important to learn the other side of the story as well. It is important to see how the ‘protesters’ and those supporting them are reacting to the events that transpired on Thursday.
For one, Babul Supriyo is being accused of elbowing a girl during the fracas. The photograph shows the singer turned politician with his elbow resting on someone’s shoulder whose gender is not entirely clear. But we have to assume that it is a girl. However, the image doesn’t show Supriyo in poor light at all. In fact, it makes the ‘protesters’ look infinitely worse.
Supriyo has his shirt torn open and it’s evident from the image that the ‘protesters’ are invading his personal space and one can only imagine how uncomfortable he must have felt at that moment. Although it’s not evident from the photograph, it appears almost obvious that he was assaulted and he was acting in self-defence.
The girl might well have gotten hurt in the process but Supriyo could hardly be blamed for it. It’s not farfetched to assume that he felt threatened at that moment and he acted in self-defence. Or more likely, it might have been completely unintentional and the girl got injured when Supriyo moved his hand instinctively. Blaming him for the girl’s injury appears incredulous. “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes,” is the only thing that comes to mind when one sees this picture.
Another accusation, this time against the ABVP, claims that the youth-wing of the RSS came with explosives and swords and set Gate No. 4 of the University on fire. This seems entirely implausible. It appears unbelievable that people armed with explosives and swords would dare enter Jadavpur, one of the most lively places in Kolkata. While we can’t say for uncertain who set what on fire, it is plausible that people associated with the ABVP were responsible for it. Furthermore, it needs to be said here that there’s no evidence whatsoever as of now that Supriyo abused any disabled man in any manner.
According to reports, ABVP and Durga Vahini, the flagbearers of the surge of the Bhagwa among the youth in Bengal, attacked the University in response to the Left’s attack on Supriyo. The Arts Faculty Union Room was ransacked, the furniture was vandalized, Left posters and the banners were shredded to bits, and a portrait of the homophobe Che Guevera kept in the room was damaged. The youth organization did not stop at that and proceeded to paint ABVP graffiti in the Leftist union room.
The following is the most iconic image to come out Bengal in recent times. Outsiders may not realize it but this is further confirmation of the fact that on the occasion of Ram Navami in 2017, Bengal was changed forever. Everything followed from that.
The rhetoric from Leftists in the aftermath of the violence at Jadavpur is not helping. It’s extremely disturbing considering the implications of it. Premeditated and unprovoked violence against saffron karyakartas is being justified. It could only lead to further chaos. More disturbingly, there appears to be absolutely zero introspection on how matters escalate to this point.
There appears to be a concerted attempt to completely deny any wrongdoing on the part of the ‘protesters’. While the ABVP could very well be accused of taking matters a bit too far, it cannot be denied that their actions didn’t occur in a vacuum. The ‘protesters’ and their supporters refuse to admit that they contributed to the violence in any manner whatsoever. The people associated with the ABVP are being portrayed as some crazed monsters who have been created for the sole purpose of wreaking havoc at Jadavpur University. We all know that’s not the truth.
According to the Left, the ‘students’ were only exercising their ‘right to dissent’. In what world is tearing open the shirt of a democratically elected representative of the government considered a legitimate form of protest? In what world is holding captive a Union Minister against his will considered acceptable? It was only after the ABVP intervened that Supriyo was allowed to leave the University.
The blame for the mess lies squarely with the governments that have ruled West Bengal until this point. Cancer at Jadavpur University has metastasized to this extent only because neither the erstwhile Left regime nor the current Trinamool regime considered the matter important enough to merit much deliberation. Even the violence on Thursday occurred entirely because the government failed to maintain a hold over law and order. And now we have reached a point where ‘students’ at the University think it was a good idea to grab a Union Minister by his hair in front of the camera on national television. And they still have the temerity to pretend as if the Leftists did nothing wrong.
The biggest takeaway from the Battle of Jadavpur on Thursday is that the radical Leftists at the University haven’t come to terms with the rise of the Bhagwa in West Bengal. They are still functioning under the assumption that the political culture of Bengal has remained the same despite the success BJP has achieved in recent times. But it’s far from the truth.
The Changing of the Guard that occurred when Trinamool ousted the erstwhile Communist regime didn’t mark a fundamental shift in the political culture of Bengal. The colour of politics did change from Red to Green but the essential nature of it remained the same. However, Kesari is an entirely different beast altogether.
The dawn of the Bhagwa in Bengal doesn’t merely represent a political shift in Bengal, it is much more fundamental than that. While the Trinamool regime was content with greeting the ‘students’ of Jadavpur with lathi-charge whenever they tried to disrupt government functions, it ignored them entirely the rest of the time. Thus, the perennial protesters could then claim a victory while playing the victim card.
The Bhagwa, on the other hand, wants to put an end to this culture forever. It does not wish to tolerate ‘dissent’ that promotes discord within the country and challenges the territotial and cultural integrity of the Indian Union. Therefore, the Battle of Jadavpur was fated to happen at some point or the other.
The Left suffered a crushing defeat on Thursday. Their union room was ransacked, the portrait of their revered hero Guevera was damaged and their posters and banners were torn to shreds. Worse for them, they come out of the entire episode looking like a bunch of hooligans and brats, which they undoubtedly are, who have no respect for the institutions of the country and aren’t capable of holding a civilized discussion with a political opponent.
Even more of an embarrassment for them is the fact that Babul Supriyo, who they decided to battle against in their own territory, came out of it looking like a hero. He went to their campus, delivered his speech, was held hostage and then was rescued in rather heroic fashion by his band of followers. It was a complete disaster for the Left no matter how one looks at it. Admittedly, they have thoroughly earned the humiliating defeat.
When I called my mom later at night, I told her I hadn’t realized the matter was this significant. My mom, whose anger had abated by then, asked me in a rather morose tone, “Don’t these kids realize what they are doing? Don’t they think about their parents at all? Don’t they realize what they are putting their parents through?” I couldn’t find it in my heart to tell her that the Left considers the world their generation built a vestige of a tyrannical edifice that ought to be rooted out branch and stem. I couldn’t tell her that they consider whatever suffering they, and those around them, are forced to endure because of their terrible and indefensible actions are worth it for the righteousness of their intentions.