It has been a year since the much condemned Uber-Cotton incident. The events of the night of 11th August 2017 and its consequences have been written on the pages of history of Cotton College as a black day that everyone looks upon in despair. Allegations were made, statements were repeatedly altered and quick conclusions were drawn regarding Cotton College and Cottonian. Labels were pasted upon the whole population of the institution based upon the actions of the few who were actually present there that night. But how many of them knew what exactly happened that night?
First-hand information acquired from the accused goes like this:
On the night of August 11, the hostel boarders heard a ruckus outside their hostel. It seemed that Uber drivers and local auto drivers were having conflicts about parking space. Gradually, the fight got bigger and someone started pelting stones at the hostel. When the boarders came out to check the matter, they tried to break the fight. At the same time, two drunk media person emerged out of nowhere and tried recording the scene asking nonsensical questions to the accused Cottonians and in the heat of the moment, had their camera broken and car window smashed. Some Uber cars also got their windows smashed by various parties, be it students or auto drivers. The century old cotton hostel also had its property damaged severely that night.
It might have been registered as another incident of misbehaving of a few students that the university authority would have taken care of buut what followed next was unprecedented and unwelcome. The next day, at around 12 pm, around 50 to 60 Uber and OLA drivers rallied to the college and started pelting stones to the main building at the same time shouting foul slogans like “Cotton Murdabad”. Panic-stricken students ran hither and thither, hurting themselves when the mob broke open the main gate and a chaotic situation followed. The Assamese news channels added fuel to the incident by showing manipulated, muted footage of the night before and accusing the Cottonians as attackers, goons and what not.
Academic debate in recent times has involved the concept of critique as a form of strategic argument and Cottonians have always embraced every criticism thrown upon but when the whole state was showcased a “doctored” statement wrapped up in the veil of phrases like “loss of glory” or “lowered standards”, the negativity violated the rules of a fair fight and it was no longer a news report that was being broadcast. It was yellow journalism practised in broad daylight.
Whilst a bunch of intellectuals were trying to slam this with utterly nonsensical reasons such as the fault of the university authorities or even the exaggerated self opinions of Cottonians, no one tried to see the bigger picture here. Coming to the role of media, they are the fourth pillar of democracy and their role in the society is vital in shaping voices but what goes wrong is when commercialism kicks journalism in the gut, true news takes a back seat for good. The hunger for TRP leads the news channels to follow false leads, broadcast farce topics and divert public attention to useless and unnecessary debates. There are certain norms and ethics that even the media needs to follow while broadcasting a particular news.
However, looking at the positive side of it, the incident united the Cottonians like never before. They stood up against all the allegations attending talk shows, answering all the questions and even writing in the printed medium. It cleared itself of the accusation that results of the Cotton College has degraded when the 2017 Higher Secondary results were announced and Cotton maintained its consistent academic brilliance with 100% pass percentage in arts stream and 99.2% pass percentage in science stream with two rank holders. The KBR auditorium was flooded with students trying to get admissions in this century old institution.
It is disheartening to witness that Cotton College has always been the topmost target of certain media persons and they use Cotton as a weapon to gain attention or a few likes in social media. To all the Cotton alumni who have been blaming the present generation that they have lowered the standard of the institution or destroyed its glory should bear in mind that this is not the 90s. Things are not the same anymore. The education system scenario is different, the Cotton scenario itself has changed and with the newly introduced university level, things are going a little bumpy. Incidents where a handful of Cottonians had behaved in notorious ways is shameful but that can never be a label for 5000 Cottonians. Cottonians have always excelled in every field and even now, talent seems to be dripping from its arena. Few farce allegations and social media hate posts will never lower its esteem or former glory. It will stand strong, and withstand every blow that yellow journalists or so-called intellectuals direct towards the institution. The Cottonians that live and breathe for Cotton are rooted to the institution forever.
Once a Cottonian, Always a Cottonian
Author: Bhavana Barman (The author is a 3rd year UG student of Cotton University)
Featured image source: PTI