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Kolkata, January 28, 2020
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar was on Tuesday forced to leave the venue of the Calcutta University convocation without attending the programme, where Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee was presented an honorary doctor of letters degree, following tumultuous protests by students opposing CAA.
An angry Dhankhar -- the ex-officio Chancellor of the university -- later dubbed the obstruction as "stage-managed" and alleged "total failure" of the state machinery to "maintain law and order".
The large number of protesters, who barged into the Nazrul Manch in south Kolkata, raised slogans asking Dhankhar to "go back", called him a "stooge of the BJP" and refused to let the convocation begin unless he left the venue where a large number of educationists and other eminent persons had gathered.
As the students of different colleges started the demonstration, security personnel escorted Dhankhar to the back stage in view of the tense situation.
In the meantime, another group of students started demonstrating outside the venue, as Banerjee's car got stranded, before the security personnel escorted him inside.
"We demand the Governor go back. We won't allow him to attend this programme. He is a BJP stooge. We don't accept Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens," said a demonstrator carrying posters against the NRC and CAA. He identified himself as a student.
"We will go back as soon as the Governor leaves. Our only problem is with the Governor," said another demonstrator.
"BJP agent Governor lay your hands off Calcutta University," said a poster.
The students claimed they did not represent any party, though some of them were known faces of the Trinamool Congress Chhattra Parishad.
Vice-Chancellor Sonali Chakravarty Banerjee and other officials tried to repeatedly reason with the protesting students, urging them not to ruin the sanctity of such an occasion. However, they refused to relent, saying they won't allow him either to go to the stage or be a part of the convocation procession.
Finally, Dhankhar left the venue after signing the D.Litt (honoris causa) in the Nobel laureate's presence. With Dhankhar gone, the protestors also disappeared, and the programme was held without any more hindrances.
Dhankhar later lashed out against the protesters and the state administration in a series of tweets.
"Convocation of Calcutta University was at Nazrul Manch auditorium and not on the campus of Calcutta University. There was total failure of the state machinery to maintain law and order. The obstruction was stage managed. This happens to constitutional head. Where are we heading!" he posted on his Twitter handle.
"The actions of those who created or stage-managed unseemly spectacle would resonate for long in the ears of cultured people of WB.... Those who compromised culture and decorum need to be in reflective mode," he 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)," he said in another tweet.
Dhankhar said when the Vice-Chancellor sought permission from him to proceed with the Convocation, he agreed out of his respect for Banerjee and "mindful of the reputation of the iconic Calcutta University".
With Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Education Minister Partha Chatterjee also staying away, there was no representative from the state government at the convocation. The Vice-Chancellor handed over the honorary degree to Abhijit Banerjee.
The economist, while delivering his address, said: "What has happened here is a little bit hard for me to comprehend."
Last month, Dhankhar could not attend the convocation of Jadavpur University following intense protests on the campus by a section of the non-teaching staff affiliated to the ruling Trinamool Congress.
The awardees were divided in their opinion on the protest.
Political scientist Manabi Majumdar found the protest proper, saying "there are a lot of reasons to be worried about the citizenship law".
Noted bio-physicist and retired director of the Council of Science and Industrial Research Samir Kumar Brahmachari, however, was aghast at the happenings.
"I don't think ruining the convocation is very courteous. It is a very sad thing to happen in such a big university when even the convocation is disturbed."