‘Mamata can’t escape responsibility’: Dharmendra Pradhan on JU student’s death
Dharmendra Pradhan said UGC has taken the matter seriously and measures were being taken to prevent ragging on campuses
Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan targeted West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in Kolkata on Sunday saying chief minister Mamata Banerjee cannot escape responsibility in the death of a first-year student at Jadavpur University boy’s hostel on August 9.
In the Bengal capital for a day to attend some programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the minister also said that the University Grants Commission (UGC) has taken the matter seriously and measures were being taken to prevent ragging on campuses.
“Political speeches and posturing will not do. Mamata Banerjee cannot escape responsibility. The government must investigate the matter,” he told the media.
“Jadavpur University is one of the country’s prestigious institutions. It is clear that UGC guidelines to prevent ragging were not followed at Jadavpur. Mamata Banerjee has to take responsibility for that. Nobody has the right to rag a student,” he added.
Pradhan’s remarks came amid a political row over allegations that the BJP was trying to make an entry into the JU campus that had been out of bounds for the saffron camp and its student’s front, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), so far.
Pradhan made the statement hours after the dean of JU’s science department, Subinoy Chakraborty, who was also chairman of the university’s internal inquiry committee probing the ragging-related death, quit the dean’s chair.
Chakraborty, one of the most senior professors at JU, cited personal reasons in his resignation letter and refused to talk to the media. However, several professors said his decision might be related to the appointment of the new interim vice-chancellor Buddhadeb Sau by Bengal governor C V Ananda Bose, who is also the chancellor, on Saturday.
Sau, the JU teachers pointed out, is president of the Bengal wing of the Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh (ABRSM) linked to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha (RSS) and the BJP. In Bengal, the organisation is called Jatiyatabadi Aadhyapak O Gabeshak Sangha.
ABRSM documents accessed by HT showed that on December 27, 2021, Sau was unanimously nominated as president of the 26-member state executive committee of the Jatiyatabadi Aadhyapak O Gabeshak Sangha in the presence of ABRSM national general secretary Mahendra Kapoor.
Sau will continue to hold the post till 2024, said the resolution adopted at that meeting held in Kolkata.
Targeting the governor, who is chancellor of all 31 state-run universities, Bengal power minister Aroop Biswas said, “The governor is the BJP’s new state president and the Raj Bhawan is the party’s state headquarters.”
Sau did not comment on his political affiliation but the Bengal BJP did not deny that JU’s new interim vice-chancellor, who was scheduled to take charge on Monday, is the state president of the teachers’ organisation.
“Any educated individual can have a political orientation. He (Sau) can have one too. But does the TMC have any moral or political right at this moment to speak on the state’s education system? From the bribe-for-job scam in schools to chaos over appointment of vice-chancellors, the TMC is responsible for everything. The governor is only applying his discretionary powers as per his prerogative,” Bengal BJP’s chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya told HT.
The Kolkata police on Saturday arrested Joydip Ghosh, a former student of JU’s international relations department who passed out in 2021, taking the number of arrests in connection with the student’s death to 13. The suspects include present and former students who stayed at the hostel.
Ghosh, who was remanded in police custody by a Kolkata court on Sunday, was taken to the JU hostel along with two other arrested suspects by the police so that their statements could be cross-checked.
Sau, too, visited the campus on Sunday and held a meeting with Snehamanju Basu, the registrar.
“The responsibility for what happened lies with everyone; the authorities, teachers and also students. We will hold meetings and decide how to set up a proper security system. Installing security cameras may not be the sole solution,” Sau told reporters.
Bengal has been witnessing an impasse in the higher education department since last year when the tenure of the vice-chancellors at 29 universities, including JU, ended. Their services were extended till May 31 this year and the government has started the process of forming search committees to select new incumbents.