In a matter of days now, it will be time for Durgotsav or Durga puja, the biggest celebration of India’s reverence for Goddess Durga. For five consecutive days, among all the merrymaking, there will be rituals followed and prayers offered to Ma Durga in all earnestness. At the very forefront of this celebration will be Kolkata, the city which bids adieu to each year’s celebration with the promise of repeating it all again next year – “Asche bochor abar hobe”.
But this year, a fortnight before the festivities, all the characteristic pre-puja excitement and chatter are being overshadowed by something far grimmer. It is an issue which seems to be slowly spiralling out of control, revealing the consequences of maladministration, unruly forces and corrupt power and at the heart of this issue, lies the dignity of a woman.
That issue is now being nationally known and referred to as ‘hokkolorob’ or in the world of social media as ‘#hokkolorob’.
For those out of the loop, “hokkolorob” started off as an on-campus protest against the lackadaisical approach of Jadavpur University’s administration towards a gross violation of a female student’s right and an attempt to outrage her modesty, within campus. But the issue which could have been dealt nd with by and the University itself has today become a national concern.
Why has this issue come under national spotlight?
After almost ten days had passed since the shameful event, with complaints lodged and FIR being made, no substantial step was taken by the university authorities. Rather a victim-blaming stance was being assumed by the same. As a result, the university students decided to stage a peaceful protest outside the on-campus administrative building on the 17th of September.
The peaceful protest culminated in a police crackdown on the students, with a number of what appeared to be outsiders/hired goons in civil dresses. Notable was the rather scarce number of female officers on site. Students were brutally assaulted, female students manhandled and molested by the still officially unidentified men in civil dresses. By next morning, 40 students were jailed, 35 in hospitals (as most of them had been beaten bloody), many more injured.
The atrocious treatment meted out to the students, have drawn large scale criticism from various sections of the society. But rather than deterring them, it has ended up strengthening the resolve of not only those who were directly involved in the protest on the 17th but many others, from various institutions, states, work of life and so on. It has now become a question of justice- to the woman who was wronged, to the students who were ill-treated. Almost a fight of Good VS Evil, Right Vs Wrong; how befitting the backdrop of Ma Durga’s homecoming seems to all this.
The silver lining behind a very dark cloud
But while most of our opinion regarding this issue is being focused on condemning the wrong and the wrong-doers, as it should be, in this context, I would like to focus on appreciating the efforts of all those who stood their ground in the protest in person and all those who have shown solidarity with them, in one way or another.
Being a part of a generation which is frequently blamed for all kinds of faults, ranging from insensitivity, laziness, detachment, violence, aggression, hedonism, materialism etc. and often with good reason, the expectations even we have from ourselves and/or each other are rather modest. But here is not one, not ten but thousands and thousands of examples standing their ground, and pooling in their human resources, continuously against assault and abuse, and all while upholding peace. Of course there are many naysayers from the same generation, even the alleged molesters of the source event belong to the same. But this is not about them; for once let us focus more on the good guys.
And in their path these young but brave protesters have been fortunate enough to get the support of countless members from the older generations too, e.g. the HOD of Philosophy department JU, who resigned as a sign of protest and solidarity with the students. This is a testament to the fact that when issues that really counts crop up, the much touted and immutable differences of generation gaps can be easily forgotten.
No one really knows how long the current protest will last, or what exactly will be its outcome. The whole issue might not strike a chord with everyone or seem very significant to all. But what can be taken away from the current state of affairs is that, amidst all the darkness and fear there are and will always be those willing to carry on, no matter what the consequence.