‘It was clearly sexual assault to make the women flee’
‘They switched off the lights so that the media could not film what was happening’
‘The all-male police force and plain-clothed goons dragged girls by the hair, kicked them with their boots, hit them on their breasts.’
Jadavpur University students, who were beaten up and arrested for protesting against the university’s apathy over a sexual assault on campus, talk to Sumit Bhattacharya about a night of horrors.
Students of Jadavpur University in Kolkata, protesting against what they called the university authorities’ apathy over the sexual assault on a student on campus on August 28, were brutally beaten up by the police, Rapid Action Force troopers, and plain-clothed goons late Tuesday night.
Students at the protest said it was a case of organised assault, and that women were molested, assaulted, kicked, hit with batons by the all-male police force called in by the university authorities.
They said initially outsiders affiliated with the ruling Trinamool Congress party came and heckled the students who were protesting peacefully -- singing songs to the accompaniment of guitars and violins -- and threatened them with dire consequences if they did not break up their protest.
The protest outside the vice chancellor’s office premises was in its seventh day on Tuesday.
One student said two of the members probing the August 28 sexual assault had visited the victim at her home and tried to blame her, which had left her scared. The protest began from there, demanding better probe and an end to victim blaming.
“When the police action began at around 1 am on Wednesday, they switched off the lights so that the media could not film what was happening,” said Aritry Das, a student of comparative literature.
Das, and other students who spoke to Rediff.com on condition of anonymity, said girls were molested, their clothes torn. They said the all-male police force and plain-clothed goons dragged girls by the hair, kicked them with their boots, hit them on their breasts.
“It was clearly sexual assault to make the women flee,” said a student of another reputed Kolkata college, who was at the protest “in solidarity” with her friends.
Male students were beaten with helmets and batons. Das said she saw the police and plain-clothed goons beating a friend of hers on the head even after he had fallen down, unconscious.
Das said she jumped in to protect her friend, and was dragged away by her legs, and hit with batons and helmets.
At least 35 students were arrested by the police, after which the students shifted their protest to the busy road intersection outside the Jadavpur police station. The police threatened more RAF action if the students did not clear the road blockade.
“One of the students arrested is a cancer patient,” said Das.
“The police were groping at women,” said another student who was at the protest.
West Bengal Education Minister Partha Chatterjee told the Press Trust of India that students should vent their grievances in a democratic way and not resort to a gherao. The students insisted their protest was democratic and peaceful, and that the police action was premeditated and calculated.
Raw video footage shot by students and uploaded on YouTube seemed to validate the students’ complaints, and Facebook posts claimed one engineering student beaten up by the police was in critical condition in hospital.
Image: Video grab of policemen moving into Jadavpur University on Tuesday night to break up the students' protest.