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The tragic death of Swapnadip Kundu has shaken the roots of a system which was already rotten. The horrifying incident has given rise to numerous questions. In the midst of print media, digital media, social media, formal and informal debates the questions which kept coming forth over the last few days are: Why and how did ragging become a normal practice in JU main hostel and why after knowing everything why authority was aloof? Why are those who have passed out still residing in the hostel?
Why is the university open to all and why are there no CCTV cameras installed for monitoring the campus? Why are alcohol and drugs used so extensively inside the campus? All these questions are undeniably pertinent and they give us a glimpse of the filth that has accumulated over the years. But the problem with these narratives is elsewhere.
The narratives of media, various political parties and netizens are pointing fingers straight towards Jadavpur University and by singling out JU they overlook the problem that lies inside the whole system. The narratives need to be examined. Instead of probing loopholes it has now become a “JU vs anti-JU” debate. The claim some netizens are making such as “I got the chance to study in JU but I did not admit myself there because of the inner politics”’ shows their insensitivity towards the tragedy that has just happened.
One is free to choose between JU and some other university but by showing such redundant insolence they are showing their impassivity towards the primary issue. In addition to that, our chief minister herself has chosen to describe Jadavpur as “Atankapur” (Land of Terror). It has been made clear by the professors that the university does not have a VC or a Pro-VC right now. A university without an existing authority is as helpless as we are and the professors are as worried and concerned about the whole scenario as we are. Blaming professors for the whole incident and sometimes clearly for their political affiliations is clearing up the autocratic propagandist view of the netizens and political parties who want to play their malicious political games rather than show their concern for the boy we’ve just lost.
The problems that have been detected cannot be denied and the culprits behind the death of Swapnadeep must be punished. But a recent narrative is generalizing the existing problem by projecting the view that all those who come with a dream to study in Jadavpur University from semi-urban towns and villages are ragged by their seniors. This simplified view instead of probing the complexities would complicate the things more.
I myself was born and brought up in a semi-urban town and joined JU to pursue my Masters’ but throughout my degree I did not feel alienated inside the campus even for a single moment. Neither was I forced to join the campus politics nor did a senior make me feel uncomfortable. This bright side of JU too should be mentioned when everyone is busy projecting the dark side. Another debate has started regarding the installation of CCTV cameras. Surveillance of a campus is necessary but CCTVs will not solve all the problems.
It will help us to detect criminals but it is impotent to restrict the crime from happening. A clear motif of the raggers which can be pointed out is their extremely sexist mentality. These sexist, homophobic and other psychological problems (or perhaps disorders) cannot be eradicated by a CCTV. So demanding the installation of CCTV might be pertinent, but only partly. There are previous incidents on other campuses where CCTV surveillance did not prevent nasty crimes.
Jadavpur University has always kept its head high for churning out brilliant academic brains but certainly JU too has its own loopholes. A simplistic view towards an institution is problematic, rather we need a critical and pragmatic view to sort out the existing problems. Swapnadip’s death is a great loss for us but we must keep in mind that it happened because of some ill-minds and such ill-minds are wandering everywhere.
So instead of arguing over the political inclination of students and professors of Jadavpur university, we must stand together – keeping aside the political colours – against this filthy illness and must take steps to eradicate it so that homophobic bullying cannot take the life of another Swapnadip. Our helping hands must reach all those students struggling in various campuses across the nation.
(The writer is a former student of comparative literature at Jadavpur University.)