In a virtual rerun of the Jadavpur University convocation last month, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who is also the chancellor, was today not allowed to attend Calcutta University’s annual convocation by a section of students who showed back flags to him, shouted slogans asking him to “go back” and protested against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).
For the first time in the 163-year history of the university the convocation was held without the chancellor. When the Governor tried to approach the stage, scores of students gathered near it and demanded that he should leave the venue at Nazrul Manch. A ruckus followed and the vice-chancellor Sonali Chakravarti Banerjee tried to pacify the agitating students. Eventually, the Governor left the venue around 1:30 p.m., about 45 minutes after his arrival, after signing the certificate of D. Litt for Nobel laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee.
Later, the V-C handed over the degree to Prof Banerjee. Terming the incident as total breakdown of law and order, the Governor later tweeted, “There was total failure of the state machinery to maintain law and order. The obstruction was stage managed. This happens to a constitutional head.
Where are we heading.” In a series of tweets he lamented, “The actions of those who created or stage managed unseemly spectacle would resonate for long in the ears of cultured people of West Bengal. Those, who compromised culture and decorum, need to be in reflective mode. The V-C sought permission from me as chancellor to proceed with the convocation. In view of the enormous respect I have for Abhijit Banerjee and mindful of the reputation of the iconic Calcutta University, I accorded it.”
Heaping praises on the Nobel laureate, the Governor said, “He is a man of sterling qualities and disarming grace. I am greatly touched by his modest approach and depth. I had some memorable moments with him and his mother after wearing the robe for convocation.” Later, the V-C said the students didn’t want to receive their degrees in the presence of the Governor.
“Our event has taken place as per a statute in the University Act allowing the vicechancellor to preside over the convocation in the absence of the chancellor,” she said. Last year, Dhankhar had faced similar protests at Jadavpur University where he went to attend the convocation, but had to leave the university campus owing to students’ agitation.
Following the incident, the Governor had called a meeting of vice-chancellors of the state-run universities at Raj Bhavan, but the latter skipped it. Instead, the V-Cs of 22 state-run universities formed a council to improve coordination between the state government and the university authorities. The West Bengal government had in December last year clipped the Governor’s powers as chancellor of universities, notifying a set of new rules governing his interaction with vice chancellors.