Comparing virgin women to ‘sealed bottles’ is not the only thing Jadavpur University prof. Kanak Sarkar has done, a former student writes.
Jadavpur University professor Kanak Sarkar thinks virgin women are ‘sealed bottles’. He also happens to teach the theory of feminism in politics. One cannot tell which is worse.
In 2016, as a post-graduate student in JU, I had walked into one of the last classes of feminist theory, eager to learn about the third wave of radical feminism in India. Surprisingly (although not any more), the class was empty except for some boys and three girls, including me. Even the most diligent female students had not turned up.
For most of our batch, it had become the norm to bunk Kanak Sarkar’s classes. The ones who did attend were forcibly plucked by the professor himself from the canteens or the fields, and compelled to come to class.
“I will make sure that you are not allowed to sit for the internal exams if you don’t come,” he would threaten.
By the time we were post-graduate students, most of us did not care about his threats – simply refusing to attend his classes.
Now, to many reading this, it may seem that the students were not disciplined enough. Relatives and friends from other colleges have often pointed out that students of Jadavpur University deliberately bunk classes for their ‘political agenda’. At this point, I would invite you all to attend a Masters’ class on feminism taught by professor Kanak Sarkar.
I had decided to give Kanak Sarkar’s class a chance towards the end of my university days. Although most of my friends texted me to come out and join them at the library or the cafeteria, I stuck around waiting for the professor.
Kanak Sarkar was already late. A friend of mine passed by and was shocked to see me sitting in class, waiting. She reminded me of what Sarkar had told her in her undergraduate days.
Final examinations were around the corner and Sarkar had asked the students to present a paper. My classmate who came from the hills in north Bengal was not very confident of speaking in English. She fumbled a few times while presenting her paper. Sarkar stopped her. She was nervous, thinking that he would point out some mistake in her presentation. Instead, he said the unthinkable.
“Why are you even studying in college? You are pretty enough. You will make more money if you show people some mujra,” he said.
The class gasped, but nobody protested.
The story travelled throughout the university and was whispered from one corridor to another. But Kanak Sarkar continued to reign. He was also a well-known face of the ruling party’s teachers’ wing.
By the time Kanak Sarkar walked into my class – with an unmistakable smirk on his face –twenty minutes had already gone by.
“You idiots don’t value my class,” he yawned.
He played with the attendance register for a while and asked us to tell him our roll numbers. When he came to me, he ogled for a while.
“I don’t see you in class ever. You are always hanging out with the boys at World View [a hangout spot for students]. Shameful,” he said.
I gulped down my anger and stared back calmly until he shifted his attention to another classmate. He went on insulting everyone because they had bunked his classes throughout the semester.
“You all drink and go for party meetings. Your political activities will lead to your academic decline,” he grumbled.
Suddenly, his gaze was fixated on my classmate, Swetasree who had just attended a wedding. She had mehendi on her hands. Kanak Sarkar grabbed her hand and wondered out loud as to why she had put on mehendi when it was not even a Bengali tradition.
“You should put aalta,” he said holding her hand, examining it carefully. “Your hands are pretty. All this mehendi is ruining the beauty of it.”
The same classmate had earlier gone to submit a research paper in his office. He refused to take it till Swetasree explained why there were slits on either side of the kurta she was wearing.
We stared at Sarkar in shock as Swetasree snatched her hands away. The professor smirked at her slyly and went back to his desk, opening a book and pretending to teach.
“Let’s begin with our critic of feminism?” he started.
“Do you know why feminism is a failure? Because women do not have the strength to pull rickshaws.”
He went on to explain how males in every species are of a higher status.
“The cock looks better than the hen; a lion with his mane is pursued by the lioness. It is the law of nature that women come behind men.”
The bell rang, Sarkar got up and we hung our heads in shame. We all knew him, we all talked about him, we even made fun of him, but we never stood up to him.
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