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Arsonist on varsity policy panel

Calcutta, Feb. 16: A former Kalyani University student —once barred from pursuing any course there after being indicted for arson on campus — has come back to his alma mater as a member of the court and executive council, the varsity’s highest decision-making bodies.

The return of the prodigal, who also heads the Nadia district unit of the CPM’s youth wing (the Democratic Youth Federation of India), has, expectedly, sparked off a furore in the university circles. Teachers and non-teaching officials have questioned the “motive” behind bringing back Alokesh Das, especially as a “nominee of the state government”.

There are four such nominees — perceived to be hand-picked by the party — in the university court this time. Das finds himself in the panel as a representative of a secondary schoolteachers’ association (he is also an active member of the CPM-controlled All-Bengal Teachers’ Association) in Nadia.

The three other government-nominated members, too, belong to one CPM front or the other (the Citu, the All-Bengal Primary Teachers’ Association and the party’s peasants’ wing). But Das’ nomination has raised the hackles of a section of the party as well because of his alleged involvement in the arson on the campus in July 1990.

Though the charges against Das could not be proved in court, a confidential report prepared by then vice-chancellor Kalyan Dasgupta indicted him for “instigating” the violence in which a police vehicle and university furniture and papers were burnt and damaged. Senior university officials had to be shepherded out before daybreak — inside a security ring thrown by police — because of the “danger” posed by the arsonists.

“Shri Alokesh Das (and another student-leader) were seen instigating (the arsonists) and both of them masterminded the rampage,” the report had said.

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