Last Monday, when the West Bengal unit of the ABVP held a rally to protest against the alleged “anti-national activities” at Jadavpur University, Debolina, a documentary filmmaker associated with Jadavpur University’s Women Studies department, who was documenting the rally, approached a few journalists stationed outside Gate 4 where the rally was supposed to end. “May we please stay with you guys? ABVP supporters are trying to intimidate us. They are taking pictures of us, asking us where are we from. Some women from the rally even pushed us around,” said Debolina.
The incident is symptomatic of the kind of stand ABVP leaders seem to have taken on “JU girls”. Last Friday, members of the ABVP and Left-backed student groups had clashed on the campus over the screening of director Vivek Agnihotri’s film Buddha in a Traffic Jam, triggering off chaos — some girls were allegedly molested. “After the screening, outsiders who had come for the screening and identified themselves as ABVP members, abused us. They targeted female students, especially. Their language was misogynistic. Male students were shoved around while women were sexually assaulted. They grabbed us, pushed us, shoved us and manhandled us,” said Debolina. Along with nine other girls, she lodged an FIR against the four ABVP members.
At Monday’s rally, some ABVP leaders went on record with their criticism of female students of Jadavpur University. ABVP leader, Suman Dutta, accused “JU girls” of indulging in “unnecessary drama”. “These girls claim to be molested. Have you seen them? Someone should tell them that only girls who have shame can be molested… These girls kiss men openly. This is what they do all day,” he said.
As if to prove point, some ABVP supporters released a picture of a crowd of young men and women kissing each other in an open field in various social media forums including Facebook and Whatsapp. The text accompanying the picture, in Bengali, said that this was a scene from Jadavpur University. The Jadavpur University’s student’s page was soon to post the picture with its original caption. “It was a photograph taken at a kissing festival in Peru, It was not Jadavpur University,” said Pooja Sen of the English department of the university.
Subir Haldar, state secretary of ABVP, claims that there has been no conscious effort to target female students of the university. “They have been twisting our words to make it sound like this. None of our supporters attacked any female students. It’s the JU students who attacked us. Our party actually wants to protect women on the campus from being blind followers of Western culture. Our fight is against the anti-national activities happening in the university,” he said.
This is not the first time that ABVP supporters have allegedly targeted female students of Jadavpur University, claims Titir Chakraborty, assistant general secretary of JU’s Arts students’ association. She says that in February, when teachers and students formed a human chain at the gates to restrict the entry of an ABVP rally, misogynistic slogans were chanted. “Days before that rally, outsiders identifying themselves as ABVP supporters stormed our campus and tore down our posters. Alleging that ‘anti-national’ slogans favouring Parliament terror attack convict Afzal Guru had been raised on the campus, they attacked us. They abused us,” said Chakraborty.
The fact that ABVP supporters consider “kissing an anti-national activity,” worries many JU students. “In one video I heard ABVP supporters talk about the “antrabash” (undergarments) of JU girls. Why are they so obsessed with us” asks Pooja Sen.