All the same
Sir — The editorial, “Anxiety of influence” (April 28), rightly expresses concern about the harassment and persecution of teachers in West Bengal. But every time the misdemeanours of the new government are condemned, the censure is coupled with the belief that the present state of affairs is also the result of the offences committed by the previous Left Front government. It is true that the Left had made many grievous mistakes, which enraged the people strongly enough to vote against it. But that does not mean that the Trinamul Congress government can get away with making the same errors.
Political violence in the state has increased greatly. The assault of a lady professor at the hands of a former member of legislative assembly from the TMC, Arabul Islam, at Bhangar Mahavidyalaya is a case in point. The professor’s only fault was that she allegedly wagged a finger and raised her voice against a TMC politician who is the president of her college’s governing body. What is even more disconcerting is the fact that the TMC minister, Subrata Mukherjee, later went out of his way to defend Islam. This incident, coupled with other similar disturbing events that have occurred recently, demonstrate how damaging the “anxiety of influence” can be.
Political vendetta must not be allowed to contaminate the education system. The government must stop people like Islam from promoting a culture of intimidation. Members of the West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association sought the help of the governor, M.K. Narayanan, in the Bhangar college case. Thereafter, the government took action against Islam, but he soon walked out of court on bail. More serious action is needed to curb this menace.
P.B. Saha, Calcutta
Sir — Education is the backbone of a nation. It empowers people and makes them more tolerant and refined. If politics strengthens and nourishes academics, the process of politicization of education should be lauded. But if that breeds a crude culture of violence and opportunism, it becomes a horrible disease.
Today’s political leaders seem to lack intelligence, honesty and refinement. Arabul Islam is an example. Leaders like him depend solely on muscle power to gain influence and get elected. But they do not seem to possess the basic qualities required to become people’s representatives. If politicians fail to protect people’s interests, they have no right to occupy a post in the assembly. There should be a system to eliminate such people from all levels of governance in a democracy. Islam should not have been a part of the managing committee of an educational institute in the first place.
People seem to be fast losing faith in Mamata Banerjee’s promises. She had vowed to ensure the rule of law in West Bengal. If she is sincere about her pledge, why are TMC workers and leaders often found committing atrocities against common people? Has Banerjee lost touch with the grassroots then? Or has she arrived at a compromise in order to hold on to the seat of power? She must realize that she will not be able to silence dissenting voices for long.
Uttam K. Bhowmik, Tamluk
Sir — The politicization of education in West Bengal is a legacy of the Left Front. But that does not justify the behaviour of Arabul Islam. His actions must be strongly condemned. Education in Bengal remains under the spell of rowdy politics even after a change of guard at the Writers’ Buildings. The situation has actually deteriorated in recent times. One wonders how long the new government will take to stem the rot. It is also doubtful whether constructive criticism will at all urge the government to be proactive.
Nirmal Kumar Mazumder, Calcutta
Sir — The editorial, “Anxiety of influence”, suggests the “freeing of college elections from politics”. This seems to be next to impossible. Besides, it may not be wise to entertain the idea of banning students’ elections from educational institutes just because of the crass acts of some hooligans. Politics is an important subject, and it should be an inherent part of academic life. Students must be allowed to experience politics, since it will help them mature as individuals.
R. Subhranshu, Chandernagore, Hooghly
Sir — Can the president of the governing body of a college declare that institute as “my college”? A person can make such a claim only when the sense of owning the institute is deeply entrenched in his mind because of the dictatorial attitude of the party he owes allegiance to. Such an attitude is reflected not only in the threats issued by Arabul Islam to the teachers of Bhangar Mahavidyalaya but also in the attitude of TMC workers. How can the party still call itself pro-democracy?
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur