(Recently Mrittunjoy, our Chief Editor 2018-2019, faced political persecution and bullying in Cambridge. He has bravely stood up against these elements and practices and written about them. His story has been widely covered and his courage and commitment to his principles and nation lauded for the same. In this Bengal Chronicle edition of his story, we cover the key points of the case, and we hope we all can learn key things from this entire episode. We have published this from his profile that he used when associated with The Bengal Chronicle, as a mark of recognition for his work with us)
Polarisation of, and in, politics is worrying. Binaries stand above all else, when it comes to contemporary politics: the dystopian ‘arrangement’ of the libertarians and the egalitarians, the conservatives and the progressives, the Right and the Left. There seems to be little space for anybody who does not conform. This becomes even more troubling when such politics percolates through to students. More particularly, the rise of political bullies in university spaces is a cause of concern. Identities and ideologies are the basis for such polarisation and subsequent persecution of some. Dr. Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar had to face these on two fronts this year as an elected student union leader of the University of Cambridge: one along race lines and the second based on ideology. We had the opportunity to interact with the young firebrand and know a little more about the realities of student politics and (the often unseen side of) student life in Cambridge.
The Return of the Regressive Left
The Left movement has been lately hijacked by radical and regressive elements the world over. This is after the fall of the iron curtain and USSR, way past the heydays of Michael Foot and definitely way past communism gave a reasonable challenge to other existing theories of political philosophy. Some of these radical elements of the Left self-identify as ‘left liberals’, being neither truly left (with ‘champagne socialists’ galore) nor liberal in the least. It seems that the heady mixture of egalitarianism and welfare is a good ruse for duping and misguiding unthinking people into falling for their ways. Even if this involves hypocrisy: they are intolerant while advocating for tolerance, they are dogmatic while advocating for loosening of the sway of dogma.
It is at the hand of such bullies that Mrittunjoy was a subject of repeated attacks. Cambridge has worked over the years to dismantle layers of identity-based oppression but ideology still seems to polarise and isolate many. This is an oppression that is subtle and yet as dangerous. Subterfuge and deceit are tools that are employed. On the day of his PhD graduation, soon after his 25th birthday, he got a private message from one of the co-presidents of the aforementioned unnamed organisation about how some members had apparently complained about ‘harassment’ and ‘intimidation’. After a painfully long period of humiliation, stress and investigation, it was found that there was no case to answer.
For one, standing up for his country – India, was made to seem near-impossible. Be it when he was tagged a ‘bloodthirsty war mongerer’ for standing by his country’s surgical strikes on Balakot to eliminate non state actors spreading terror, or his much-targeted participation in the Indian Independence Day celebrations (that saw uncivil and hate-filled protests by those against the abrogation of Article 370), or his historic initiative to unfurl the Indian flag on Independence Day in the historic Parker’s Pieces grounds in Cambridge, or even his caveating of a statement by the Left-heavy Union against Modi with an appreciation of his initiative – the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Mrittunjoy has had to face intense opposition and hatred from various sections of the community in Cambridge. This reached absurd levels when this pressure and lobbying started affecting University committees! There was pressure on the University Equality and Diversity team not to conduct an event where Mrittunjoy was an invited speaker! The event was eventually indefinitely postponed under this pressure. More recently, when he agreed to host Mr. Vivek Agnihotri in Cambridge and tried to use his privileges as a student leader for booking this, he was charged as misusing power. This was even as these privileges had been used for various other events that were never objected to! Clearly, there was an ideological angle to this.
When he exposed the wrongdoings and network of the regressive, ultra Left in the University, in a recent blog post, he was charged with insubordination, gross misconduct and leak of ‘sensitive information’ (a charge he has challenged) and terminated from his contract with the GU (even as his postdoctoral research continues independent of this)! All of these acts on the promising young Indian is not expected of those in Cambridge, and definitely not by those who profess the freedom of speech and liberalism.
We salute Mrittunjoy as a martyr for truth, his principles and his country!
The Elephant in the Room: Racism
We may be some way past the heyday of racism, but prejudices very much still exist today. As Angela Davis once said,
“Racism is a much more clandestine, much more hidden kind of phenomenon, but at the same time it’s perhaps far more terrible than it’s ever been”.
Besides the aforementioned oppression based on ideology, Mrittunjoy’s identity as the only brown student union leader and one of the few BAME ones across the University at the highest levels caused him quite a few unpleasant experiences.
He has mentioned about how there have been times when he did not feel included in discussions that he could contribute to, right from University committees to informal student representation fora. For instance, he had been spearheading a GU campaign for months and when a university official recently spoke to the leaders of the student unions, the official did not feel the need to mention his work or give due prominence to the work he had done and focused on other points. There have been times when he says he felt the need to prove himself in the room when he shouldn’t have had to. He says, it was like being heard but not quite listened to. He further adds that there have been committee meetings during which people have refused to make any eye-contact, and then there have been times when his work has not been mentioned, even when he was the only person with relevant knowledge or experience, on the postgraduate student front! He had seen this previously in student elections, on the campaign trail, with instances of subtle biases and statements that were not just hurtful but outright prejudiced, and invariably affecting results.
He has also had to face non-University incidents, such as a van driver spitting in his direction, which he says he would have brushed off, if it was not for the way the driver glared at him. He says there had been days when he would come with a lot of positivity and enthusiasm to help the Collegiate University and had gone back with a lot of confusion and hatred due to these occurrences. He feels that the current case of political bullying and persecution also would not have been half as easy and straightforward if he were white. The lack of resources and time, his status as an international student and his race identity seem to all have been used against him.
Major Achievements of Mrittunjoy as a Student Leader in Cambridge
During his time as one of the primary student union officers, Mrittunjoy helped establish the GU Housing and Living Expenses campaign, the Campaign for Race Equality and Access through Training and Engagement (CREATE), the Raise the Bar Anticasualisation initiative and Executive Committee reforms, besides securing the GU Housing Toolkit for MCRs (Middle Combination Rooms), GU Personal Welfare Handbook, mandatory supervisor training, various provisions in the Code of Practice for research students, form for setting expectations in the form of the Research and Resources Overview Form, initiative for promoting fairness in appointments to teaching and research opportunities, work on departmental welfare and establishment of Welfare Champions in various departments of Cambridge, campaigning for anonymous feedback reporting on supervisors and securing a
pilot project from the University on this, improving training modules for research students, creation of intersectionality forum at the University of Cambridge Graduate Union as well as work on academic fora and with Faculty Representatives. You can read more about this here:
The end of the journey shows a cultural problem in the University space that is not symptomatic of a truly liberated space and community. This is not expected of those who profess the freedom of speech and liberalism. But this is what it is. A world mired in hypocrisy, cowardice and vindictiveness. Mrittunjoy says he feels happy to have crossed and triumphed in all the tussles with the Left Mafia in the University space. As he has crossed the end of a successful term (a termination 13 days on frivolous grounds is a poor and cowardly attempt at humiliation) in office as a student leader, he looks back and sees many fond memories and some not so fond ones. Even as he remains as strong, calm and collected (due to his self-belief and belief in his values and ideals), we salute him as a martyr for his principles and Truth, for his country and his people, and most importantly for a space to truly think different to the closed ecosphere of identities and ideologies that still exist in the Universities of the United Kingdom.
(We thank Mrittunjoy for giving us the content on which this piece is based and wish him the best of luck – The Bengal Chronicle Team)
Back from the Dead: Truly ‘Mrittunjoy’
(Updated 6 January 2020)
The saga was not quite over though. On 6 January 2020, 01:18 AM IST, Mrittunjoy got an email from the General Manager of the Graduate Union. Sometimes the unexpected happens! Truly a case of ‘Mrittunjoy’ – ‘Victor over Death’, this! The General Manager of the Graduate Union had used the whistleblowing policy in his email to report how procedures were not followed during his dismissal and his appeal/complaints were not taken seriously! However true his words may have been, this email gave them the validation and weight that they thereafter acquired. Mrittunjoy is skeptical of any change this will bring (since the trustees and the Left-heavy GU Council may not action or consider this) but we are happy that the final word (and victory) is his.
धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः|