The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM puja: school shut
- Cadre ask students to attend song & dance for MLAs

Calcutta, May 26: CPM cadre forced a Rajarhat school shut some 15 minutes after classes began this morning so that the students could attend a felicitation for transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and local MLA Rabin Mondal.

Over 1,000 students of Swami Vivekananda Vidyamandir, a government-aided secondary school, who came to attend classes as usual at 10.30 am walked out an hour later after their teachers failed to convince the partymen that they could not declare a holiday in haste.

A teacher, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said: 'Some local CPM leaders came this morning and ordered us to declare a holiday so that the students could attend the programme on a field adjacent to the school building.'

'We initially resisted but finally decided to close the school to avoid friction with the CPM leaders,' added another teacher.

Several hundred students were to take tests on the last day of classes before the school closes for summer vacation after Monday's roll call. 'It was ridiculous,' said a teacher.

Like him, most colleagues resented the diktat but did not dare voice their protest. 'We come here to teach... we chose to compromise as we did not want to face unnecessary hassles,' said one of them.

The students, excited with only one working day separating them from summer vacation, were not any thrilled at being forced to take a holiday.

They had to queue up on the felicitation field at 4.30 pm.

'We were told to attend the felicitation and ask all schoolmates to join the programme. Earlier, too, we have skipped classes and marched for blood donation camps and book distribution ceremonies organised by the Rajarhat-Gopalpur municipality,' said Amit Mondal, a student.

Headmistress J. Mukherjee refused comment.

North 24-Parganas district magistrate Manoj Pant said it is an offence if somebody forces a school to shut down. 'If we receive a complaint from the school authorities, we will definitely take action. I will also inquire on my own and find out what happened,' he added.

Rajarhat MLA Rabin Mondal confirmed tonight that the students had attended the programme which Subhas Chakraborty could not attend.

In Rajarhat, on the north-eastern fringes of the city, Chakraborty has a substantial following. Even Mondal is known to be a loyalist.

Bhupati Sengupta, the vice-chairman of the municipality and a CPM district committee member looking after Rajarhat, said no force was applied. 'We had not instructed any party member to forcibly shut down a school. We approach schools to provide us with students, but only if they are interested.... We will inquire into what happened at Vivekananda Vidyamandir.'

However, teachers of many local schools said it has been a tradition to involve the ins-titutions in processions and other programmes organised by the municipality and the CPM's youth and student wings.

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