Dhankhar left the venue after a futile hour-long wait, inside the Nazrul Mancha green room, for the protests to subside. Tuesday’s agitation came more than a month after a similar protest during the Jadavpur University convocation, where university staffers forced him to return and graduating students protested against his “pro-CAA stand”.
Tuesday’s protesters, who forced Dhankhar to return, said they were students of various CU-affiliated colleges from all over the city. The governor later vented his ire in a tweet: “(The) convocation was at Nazrul Mancha and not on the campus. There was total failure of the state machinery to maintain law and order. The obstruction was stage-managed.”
Scene of protest at Nazrul Mancha
Dhankhar, before leaving the convocation venue on Tuesday, signed the honoris causa scroll for 2019 Economics Nobel Laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee. Banerjee delivered his address after order was restored, where he ignored the chaos that happened before but touched upon the work that had brought him the honour and his past as an undergraduate student of Presidency College (then a CU affiliate): “It is, in many ways, homecoming for me. It is a little bit hard for me to entirely comprehend it.”
VC: Situation was not conducive for ceremony
Another of Tuesday’s honorees, Johns Hopkins University Anthropology professor Veena Das (who received the Sudhindra Chandra Chakraborty Memorial Medal), felt students had the right to protest as there a nationwide stir against the atrocities they were subject to.
Some of the doctoral degree recipients and guests, however, felt that the protesters could have spared the convocation. “We have waited for this occasion for years. Why should a section of outsiders, claiming to be students, force the chancellor to leave?” one of them, Debashish Chakraborty, asked.
The protesters were in no mood to listen. Cops and the governor’s security somehow managed to make way for his car to reach Nazrul Mancha, where he got off and made his way to the VIP room off-stage, ignoring the black flags and posters pasted with anti-CAA slogans. The protesters then shifted to inside the auditorium, where they went on with their slogans against the new citizenship law.
Trinamool Chhatra Parishad member of the CU unit claimed most of the protesters were from affiliated colleges. “We did not have any protest plans at all,” CU MBA student and TMCP member Rony Ghosh said.
Vice-chancellor Sonali Chakraborty-Banerjee finally took the stage a little after 1 p.m. and requested the demonstrators to clear the aisle to make way for the convocation procession. But, with no one listening to her, she was finally forced to say that the chancellor would neither accompany the convocation procession nor hand over the D.Litt to the Nobel laureate.
But the impasse continued as she could not promise that Dhankar would not preside over the convocation. Chakraborty-Banerjee then returned to the green room to tell Dhankhar about the situation.
The VC returned to face the protesters after a few minutes but, by then, the governor had had enough and left the venue. The protesters, too, left soon after they were told that the governor had left. The ceremony finally began around 1.45 p.m..
Chakraborty-Banerjee later said she was forced to tell Dhankhar that a section of students would not let the convocation take place as long as he was there. “I told him that it would not be possible for me to conduct the ceremony in such a situation,” she said.
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