Banning protests in College Street

Under orders from the Chief Minister, the police have banned political congregations and protest meetings or processions in the Kolkata University area. The College Square, the usual meeting place of the protesters, has been blocked off so that nobody can enter. Movements and agitations are common in schools, colleges and universities. This is a tradition that has been built from the days of freedom struggle. Making the CU area out of bounds for political protesters on the plea of creating a better climate for study does not appear convincing.  Can those who believe and try to make others believe that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the standard and quality of education and political protests, guarantee that after the ban students studying in the two universities and several schools and colleges in the area will show better results? Likely not.
The venues for holding public meetings in Kolkata are becoming fewer and fewer. The Wellington Square of yesteryears and the Subodh Mullick Square of present times, the Beadon Square and some other squares and parks now have little space left for holding any meeting or rally. The Trinamool Congress Government which came to power through years of political meetings, rallies and processions have started limiting the scope for such activities after consolidating its power. The right to assemble peacefully and without arms, is a fundamental right given by the Constitution. But in practice, this right is being denied more and more. First, obtaining prior police permission for holding meetings or organizing processions is now mandatory. This is understandable because it is the police who have to manage vehicular and pedestrian traffic when a big procession is taken out and it terminates following a long route.
But restricting the number of places where public meetings and gatherings can take place is quite a different matter. Democracy acknowledges the right to differ, dissent and disagree. As long as the mode of expression of dissent is not violent, there cannot be any objection to it. The Trinamool Congress, as long as it was in the opposition, did the same thing to organize people and to spread its influence. Now that it is in power, it cannot prohibit meetings and rallies held against it. Moreover, quite often violence takes place because rival factions of the ruling party come to clashes. It is for the leadership of the TMC to discipline the students who profess allegiance to then, rather than take away the right to protest.

Tuesday, 6 June, 2017