Kolkata, April 11 (IANS) Kolkata Thursday erupted in protests as academicians, students, writers and scientists expressed shock and anger over vandalism at the Presidency University and historic Baker’s laboratory by state’s ruling Trinamool Congress students wing.
While Governor M. K. Narayanan called the attackers “criminals”, the West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC) took suo moto cognisance of the happenings which led to cries of shame across the nation.
It ordered the city police to probe the matter and submit a report within two weeks.
Under attack from all quarters, the state ministers tried to undo the damage by calling the incident “trivial”, while one minister indicated that the CPI-M was behind the vandalism.
But as the day rolled into evening, the police arrested two people “who were among those who vandalised the university”, Joint Commissioner of Police Jawed Shamim said. He refused to comment on their political affiliation.
A day after the violence, students kept away from the classes responding to a strike by the Communist Party of India-Marxist affiliated Students Federation of India (SFI) and Independent Consolidation.
The campus looked like a fortress with a large number of police personnel on vigil at the gates.
The governor, who had Wednesday minced no words in condemning the assault on Banerjee and her ministers, came out with a brief but strong reaction.
“Those who ransacked the university should be treated like criminals,” he told the media.
Hundreds of students, teachers, employees of Presidency University, and distinguished alumni of its former Avatar Presidency College staged a silent protest march, condemning the vandalism and demanded punishment for the miscreants.
The five-km march from the university gates saw the protestors – sporting black arm and head bands – walking silently carrying placards denouncing Wednesday’s vandalism.
Noted scientists, who had worked in the Baker’s laboratory, said it was a “sorry state of affairs”.
The famous laboratory housed in the Baker’s building was witness to path-breaking research by eminent scientists like Jagadish Chandra Bose, Satyendra Nath Bose, Meghnad Saha.
“It is a sorry state of affairs. We have got affectionate memories of the Baker Building. It is shocking,” director of Bose Institute Sibaji Raha told IANS.
Dhrubajyoti Chattopadhyay, pro-vice chancellor of the Calcutta University and an alumni of Presidency’s chemistry department, said: “I get nostalgic at the mention of Baker’s lab. We had classes there. It is shocking what happened at the university campus and our lab.”
Eminent writer Mahasweta Devi was also sad.
“The incident is very unfortunate and sad. This politics is of the lowest grade and such politics is not in the interest of people,” said the Magsaysay award winner.
The university authorities sought the intervention of Governor Narayanan as well as the chief minister for a probe into the incident.
“I have already given an eye-witness account of the entire incident to the governor. I appeal to him as well as the chief minister to initiate a serious probe into it to ensure such a deplorable incident never recurs,” said Vice Chancellor Malabika Sarkar, who has been forthcoming of the criticism of the vandalism..
However, Sarkar was the target of attack by at least two ministers.
Industry minister Partha Chatterjee described the vandalism as a “trivial” and hit out at Sarkar for going to the media after the incident instead of the governor or the police. “How can educationists react in this way?”
Panchayat Minister Subrate Mukherjee questioned Sarkar’s political credentials. “We have to see his political history and geography”.
Education Minister Bratya Basu said: “The incident has been perpetrated by those who were involved in Tuesday’s attacks in Delhi”.