Even as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee strongly opposes the Citizenship Amendment Act, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar has condemned the state government for what he calls lack of action against violent protesters. Dhankar also spoke to ET about his frequent run-ins with the TMC government. Excerpts:

The most vocal voices against the Act have come from the State, with Mamata Banerjee leading the protests. Your comments?

Right to protest is a valuable right…but violence, in agitations or otherwise, is antithetical to democracy. The agitations in West Bengal are happening with the support of State actors, (and) are worrisome. Also, funds from the public exchequer…cannot be used to support or finance (protests) through State-sponsored advertisements. All constitutional functionaries are required to act by the constitution…an elected Chief Minister cannot take to the streets against a law sanctified by Parliament.

Has governance been affected by the protests?

Those who took to vandalism should have been booked and an example should have been set. But pre-emptive action was absent. Normalcy cannot be put in place when the chief of the executive leads the agitation in mission mode with sloganeering.

You have had frequent run-ins with the government since you took over five months ago. Why is there so much friction?

The narrative that the Governor has been at loggerheads with Mamata Banerjee is not just misleading, but highly unfair to me. I can narrate (several) events masterminded and ruthlessly executed by the State government, compromising the position of the constitutional head.

On October 11, I attended a pooja carnival where there was total blackout of the Governor from any coverage. On the constitution day the Governor was made to speak after former Speaker of Lok Sabha, former Chief Election Commissioner, two former Governors and a retired Chief Justice. This being done to a constitutional head in the home state is violation of protocol, apart from being an outrageous act of impropriety. On December 5, I went to the State assembly only to find the gate closed, and when I entered from another gate there was no one to receive the governor.

The acts of indiscretions of the State… are antithetical to the essence, letter and spirit of our constitution. In all situations, I have had to compulsively react, as my silence would have sent a signal of acceptance about the baseless allegations.

Recently, some student organisations at Jadavpur University took a strong stand against you…

The disruption was caused by a handful of people reportedly affiliated to the ruling dispensation, and both the State machinery and university authorities merrily chose to be in passive mode. This surely is collapse of law. This is an instance of outrageous intolerance of the Chancellor. Can you imagine that I, as Chancellor, have no freedom of communication directly with the Vice Chancellors? I have to share and route it through the Secretary of the Government. This approach will shame even authoritarian regimes.

The CM has assigned a minister Partha Chatterjee who came to meet you on Tuesday.

There are issues that I am addressing so that the present stalemate ends. As a constitutional head, I carry no baggage of past events that compromised my position as Governor. I aim to look ahead and move forward in the interest of the State. I have no doubt that given the CM’s stature and experience she would abide by the constitution. Of late, I see some bright spots. I did have a cordial meeting with the minister.

The TMC has blamed you for delays in clearing Bills and not cooperating with the State government…

There has been no delay whatsoever. All delay is because the State Government delays in giving requisite inputs. With respect to the SC and ST Commission Bill, I raised issues on December 5 and there has been no response yet. I am expected to act after applying my mind, I cannot be either a post office or rubber stamp. I am also, by virtue of my office, the Chancellor of State-aided Universities. Both the Chancellor and State Government have well defined roles and should not cross that domain. The environment in university campuses here is a cause of serious concern.

During the Jadavpur University incident, some people said you overstepped your role in the Babul Supriyo episode. Your view?

I acted within…my oath under Article 159 of the Constitution. When I came to know that a constitutional functionary was suffering at the Jadavpur University at the hands of outside elements and some students, I could not fiddle like Nero while Rome was burning. I exhausted all available avenues for a way out by getting in touch with the VC, police and government, including the chief minister. Since this made no headway, I was obligated to connect with the students.

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