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Presidency opens with warning

Calcutta, Aug. 23: Presidency College threw open its gates at 4.45 this evening, exactly 36 hours after it was “indefinitely” shut down.

Announcing the reopening after a three-hour meeting of the teachers’ council, principal Amitava Chatterjee warned he would close down the college again if the students gheraoed him or misbehaved with him or other teachers.

The decision came after high drama and hard bargaining between college authorities and the Independent Consolidation (IC) on the action to be taken against SFI supporter Ankush Sarkar, who sparked the ruckus by allegedly assaulting an IC colleague inside Hindu Hostel on Monday.

Chatterjee’s decision to close the institution sine die took both the government and the CPM by surprise, but they chose not to make a noise about it and quietly pressured the management to reopen the college.

The IC greeted the “conditional” reopening by setting its own terms: it would continue the relay hunger strike till Tuesday and then upgrade the agitation into a fast-unto-death if its demands were not met by then.

Faced with the fresh threat, college authorities went into a huddle again and made another “offer” to the IC. Chatterjee said he would “recommend” to the hostel disciplinary committee that action be taken against Ankush — a fortnight’s suspension and an apology — if the hunger strike clause was withdrawn.

The teachers’ council meeting began a few minutes after 1 this afternoon amid sloganeering by SFI and IC supporters. A council member said things were stormy as several members protested that the closure decision was a “drastic action unwarranted by the situation”.

Bengal higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty had yesterday indicated the government was not happy with the decision. Signals from Alimuddin Street, too, hinted that the CPM was displeased with the “tactless” handling.

Chatterjee is firm that he will not recommend action against Ankush “under pressure”. But he said a disciplinary committee will meet in seven days to probe the assault allegation levelled by the IC and denied by the SFI. This panel will comprise the principals of Presidency College, Goenka College of Commerce and Business Administration, Maulana Azad College and Sanskrit College, the hostel super and assistant super, the teachers’ council secretary and senior Presidency teachers.

Chatterjee said it would take seven more days for the panel to furnish its report. Only after that would he recommend action, if any, against Ankush.

SFI central Calcutta district committee member Gauranga Dandapat said his organisation “did not have any sympathy for any supporter who indulges in violence”. If the accused student was proved guilty, he would be expelled, he said.

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