Students of Calcutta University in West Bengal on Tuesday allegedly prevented Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar from chairing a convocation programme that was attended by Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, NDTV reported. Students shouted “go back” to Dhankhar, who was seated in a room backstage with Banerjee.
Dhankhar eventually left the university without attending the convocation, after sitting in backstage for an hour. Calcutta University conferred an honorary doctorate on Banerjee. However, the award was presented not by Dhankhar but by Vice Chancellor Sonali Chakravarty Bondhopadhyay. Dhankar, by his position as governor of West Bengal, is the chancellor of Calcutta University.
The governor, who arrived at the college at 12.30 pm, was subjected to protests by students who held posters of “No CAA [Citizenship Amendment Act]” and “No NRC [National Register of Citizens]”, PTI reported. The governor headed straight towards the Nazrul Mancha greenroom, where he met Banerjee. However, minutes before the programme began, another group of students began to shout slogans against Dhankhar, this time prompting him to leave the venue around 1.30 pm.
Pleading helplessness, Bondopadhyay later told reporters that “a section of students did not want to receive their degrees in the presence of the honourable governor”. She said that there is a provision in the university statute that the vice chancellor can preside over a convocation ceremony in the absence of the chancellor. “...And we are relieved that the convocation finally got over and we could hand over the citations to our invited dignitaries and academic degrees to students,” she said.
“The uppermost thought in mind while leaving Calcutta University without attending the Convocation is to ensure there is no compromise of the immense respect we have for Nobel laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee on whom we are conferring honorary D Litt (honoris causa),” Dhankhar later tweeted. “I have signed the D.Litt (honoris causa) in the presence of Abhijeet Bannerjee, VC and others. A man of sterling qualities and disarming grace. Greatly touched by his modest approach and depth.”
The governor claimed that the obstruction was “stage managed” and the state machinery totally failed in maintaining law and order at the university. He added that he would address a press conference at 3 pm on Wednesday.
This is the second time in the last two months that Dhankhar has been forced to leave a convocation venue without attending it. On December 24, students and employees of Jadavpur University in Kolkata forced Dhankhar to return after blocking him at the college gate.