Though both are opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and citizenship screening, the president of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students’ union Aishe Ghosh and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee have landed in each other’s crosshairs.
Two state-run universities in Kolkata have not allowed Ghosh to address meetings on campus and the state police have not permitted her to hold a rally.
“Such actions will only strengthen the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The police in West Burdwan district did not allow me to hold a rally in Durgapur on Wednesday. In the next two days I was not allowed to enter Calcutta University (CU) and Jadavpur University (JU),” Aishe Ghosh said in Kolkata on Friday evening after meeting students at Presidency University.
The issue was raised by Left and Congress leaders in the state assembly on Friday. The opposition accused the chief minister of restricting Ghosh’s movement and said Mamata Banerjee wanted to be the sole face of the movement against CAA.
Banerjee reacted sharply to the comments while giving her reply to the debate on the recent state budget.
“Our government never stops any opposition party from holding a movement. But have you forgotten what happened at Hazra?” Banerjee asked.
She was referring to the incident of August 17, 1990, when a CPI(M) worker, Lalu Alam, hit her on the head with a baton. Banerjee, then a youth Congress leader, suffered a serious injury.
Ghosh, who rushed from one meeting to the next in Kolkata, said, “If the opposition did not have any freedom and political space for 35 years during the erstwhile left regime, how could TMC (Trinamool Congress) come to power?”
On Thursday, Ghosh led veteran communist leaders, intellectuals and thousands of youths in a rally against Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in the heart of Kolkata.
The TMC government, however, drew flak when the doors of CU, where Ghosh was supposed to address a meeting of students and teachers, were closed in a hurry to stop her entry.
CU authorities told the students that they could not allow an outsider to hold a political meeting on campus. This triggered protest by CU teachers.
Ghosh had to address the gathering on College Street outside CU and led the rally till Shyambazar in north Kolkata.
“Both TMC and BJP want to silence the voice of democracy,” said Mayukh Biswas, the national general secretary of the Students’ Federation of India – the students’ wing of the CPI(M) – of which Ghosh is a member.
“Teachers and staff of the university had gathered to listen to Aishe. We cannot make such discriminations at this hour,” said Parthib Basu, general secretary of Calcutta University Teachers’ Association.
“The chief minister does not want anyone else to be the face of the anti-CAA movement. She fails to understand that this is a movement of the people,” said senior Congress legislator Manoj Chakraborty.
Incidentally, the chief minister had decried the violence at JNU, Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia University last month and offered her support to the students.
“The chief minister has said repeatedly that leading the anti-CAA movement is her responsibility. People should let her do her job,” said veteran TMC minister Sadhan Pandey.