In an act of heavy-handedness, six students of National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata were assaulted on Sunday.
The students, who were volunteers with Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA), were attacked in their attempts to prevent the demolition of a slum in Kolkata’s Subash Sarovar area.
Last month, an IDIA team had successfully obtained a stay on the proposed demolition of the slum in a petition they helped file in the Calcutta High Court. However, despite the High Court’s stay order, the authorities decided to proceed with demolition on Sunday.
When news of the same reached the NUJS students, they arrived at the scene in a bid to stop the demolition, only to be assaulted by policemen. According to Prof Shamnad Basheer, five of them sustained injuries as a result, and were taken to a local hospital for treatment.
It now remains to be seen what the concerned authorities will do to make up for the act of violence. The Calcutta High Court may well weigh in, given the fact that the demolition took place in direct violation of its stay order.
The Students Juridical Association (SJA) of NUJS has condemned the assault on the students. A statement reads,
“…female students were groped by multiple goons and the male students were grievously assaulted till they were unconscious. All their phones were smashed and completely destroyed by the goons. When the students tried to escape, the gates of the area (Subhas Sarovar- where the slum is located is a fenced enclosure) were shut and the goons continued to beat up them up.”
The SJA statement further reads,
“As law students, this sequence of events has completely shaken our faith in all the institutions in place in our beloved country. Suddenly all those case studies from classes on the State’s failure where everyone has an impulse to take a stand – be it left, right or center seemed completely irrelevant. All those lofty ideals of social justice which we seek to learn and further through our education at our prestigious law schools were swiftly torn to bits along with the interim injunction.
This incident is a deep affront on our collective conscience. We firmly believe that we, as the law school fraternity, must stand together against this complete obliteration of the rule of law that we seek to defend and practice. We sincerely hope that in this hour of need, our collective conscience will inspire us to participate in defending and echoing the common ideals of liberty and rule of law that bind us together.
We also take this opportunity to express our gratefulness to the Student Bar Association, NLSIU and the various student bodies who have reached out to us showing solidarity.”
Update: According to the SJA website, the High Court has directed the immediate rehabilitation of the slum dwellers and has issued a contempt notice against the authorities.