The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll army captures campus

A fleet of cars with stickers on the windscreen, a stream of officials strolling in and out, party workers gorging on packed meals and cops sitting tight.

Welcome to Calcutta University's political science department ' now taken over by the Election 2006 army and transformed into a strong room for storing electronic voting machines.

The department, on the first floor of a building on the Alipore campus, was out of bounds for teachers and students on Wednesday. And it will remain so till the counting of votes in the Assembly elections is over, prompting the authorities to suspend classes from April 20 to May 13.

This is the first time in recent history that a department of the university has stayed shut for the polls.

Four rooms meant for readers and professors of the department have been taken over, three classrooms and an examination hall are now 'no entry' for students, and a lecture hall has been converted into the office of the returning officer.

With the furniture removed and rooms emptied, the teachers are forced to carry work home. The electric connections have been temporarily snapped to facilitate installation of various gadgets required for the polls and a part of the department has been fenced off with a plywood partition.

'Students are the worst hit because of the shutdown, as both the Part I and Part II examinations are around the corner. But we have no option,' said Dhurjati Prasad Dey, secretary of the University College of Arts and Law.

Classes in the other departments on campus have been suspended from April 24 to 27, 'as it's going be a complete mess once the paramilitary personnel walk in' for the Calcutta phase of the polls.

Teachers of the political science department fear that the almost-month-long forced holiday will leave little time to complete the syllabi and also affect various UGC projects.

'Usually, classes are held till May. With this sudden closure, I had to leave part of my syllabus incomplete,' admitted Sobhanlal Dutta Gupta, a professor of the department.

The poll toll on academia, however, is not restricted to the Alipore campus. With paramilitary forces scheduled to troop into the three-storeyed building of the atmospheric sciences department, on Hazra Road, in the next few days, the authorities have decided to suspend classes there from April 22 to 29.

'There was a request from the police not to hold classes as long as the paramilitary personnel camp there. We have also verbally conveyed a closure request to the superintendent of a girl's hostel nearby,' Dey added.

When asked about the inconvenience caused to students and teachers, chief electoral officer Debasish Sen said: 'Sorry, I can't comment on this issue.'

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