IIM-C holds its peace, but other Kolkata campuses join CAA protests3 min read . Updated: 22 Dec 2019, 11:34 PM IST
- Across Kolkata, students have been holding peaceful protests even as those of IIM-Calcutta decided to play it safe
- As protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, gather force across campuses, Mint runs a series on what students have to say on the issue
Kolkata: Situated in Joka on the Diamond Harbour Road in Kolkata, the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM-C) campus is quiet, green and beautiful. There’s no sign of student activity—even as students from other premier business schools have been protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA). At IIM-C, students are consciously steering clear of the protests, saying they’re worried they’d be penalized for participating.
A number of students declined to comment and a spokesperson for the institute, who did not wish to be named, said the faculty and students had stayed out of controversy for 70 years and would continue to do so. “We don’t want our students to find themselves in murky waters. Their job is to study, so let them focus on studies," he said, adding that they would not let students participate in “any such activity which would distract them from studies on campus".
Outside the campus, however, a couple of students taking a smoking break were a little more forthcoming. “I don’t think this Act was necessary, but more importantly, what happened in the Jamia library shouldn’t have happened," said a second-year MBA student, who did not wish to be named.
Another student said protests weren’t allowed on campus “because we don’t want the name of our institute tarnished". He said the professors were also cautious as they did not want to go against the government. “They can also refuse to award my degree so I’d rather play it safe," he said.
On other campuses in Kolkata, though, students are less fearful. Students of Jadavpur University (JU) and Presidency University have taken out peaceful rallies to denounce the police action at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi.
Last week, JU students marched from their campus to the nearby 8B bus stand, carrying posters that criticized the new Act and the police crackdown. This week, exams have started at JU and many students have returned to their books.
A final-year undergraduate student, who was studying in the canteen, said she believed the spirit of CAA violated the Constitution, but she preferred to stay away from protests or politics on campus.
Smriti Sinha, a final-year undergraduate student, however, is keeping up the pressure. She and a group of students, who participated in protests last week, were making posters when Mint caught up with her.
“Usually, students join movements to feel like they are part of something larger, since we’re in a transition phase between student life and seeking a job or other opportunities," she said. “But in the context of the ongoing protests, we’re facing attacks directly for expressing ourselves. That’s why so many of us have come out on the streets. That’s why even institutes that usually don’t participate are coming together in the fight."
Agniva Ray, a first-year student of international relations, said the government was trying to divert the attention of the people away from issues of employment.
The students also hold debates as a form of protest. “The government does not engage with students. There is no space for interaction or dialogue, and when there is no space for engagement, the only way left is protesting," said Sinha.
The JU administration has been supporting the students’ involvement. “The vice-chancellor’s stand is that he will talk to students and make them understand," said Partha Pratim Ray, general secretary of Jadavpur University Teachers’ Association. “Within our campus, students are holding peaceful protests and rallies, which we support."
Sinha said her peers in other colleges were not able to express themselves as they feared punishment or expulsion.
“They join us sometimes, but try to blend into the crowd and not draw attention to themselves. It’s unfortunate, but I’m hoping that in a couple of years, institutes like these will let their students express themselves openly."
This story was based on the reporter’s visit to the IIM Calcutta campus on the morning of December 18. Subsequently, the students of IIM Calcutta held a peaceful protest in solidarity with other students across the country, vehemently opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). More than 250 students, alumni and faculty signed a statement of solidarity in support of students across the country protesting against the CAA and the NRC.