A murmur of discontent over some students failing a pre-board selection test snowballed into a more than 24-hour siege at Santoshpur Rishi Aurobindo Balika Vidyapeeth after political leaders jumped into the fray, allegedly eager to settle a score with the management.
Sources said the protest gained momentum at the behest of some local Trinamul leaders, including Shankudeb Panda, the general secretary of the party’s student wing.
“They would have us believe that they were worried about the future of the 29 students who had been declared unsuccessful in the selection test. But the truth is that they were trying to use the opportunity to get a toehold in the school’s managing committee,” said a resident of the area who requested anonymity.
The government-aided school with a little over 800 students has a managing committee that presently doesn’t have a local Trinamul representative.
“The headmistress (Sreemati Ghosh) is very firm in her decisions and is known not to buckle under political pressure. So local Trinamul leaders used this incident to get even with her and prepare the ground for their entry into the school managing committee,” a source said.
| Police guard the main gate to keep the protesters, many of them guardians, from entering the school; (above) two representatives of the HS council meet the staff and students on Tuesday. Pictures by Biswanath Banik
Many parents and guardians said they were aware that the protest would have fizzled out without political backing.
Trinamul’s involvement in the siege, which started on Monday afternoon, became clearer when Panda arrived at the school on Tuesday morning and met the parents and guardians of the students.
Panda declined to say why he visited the school but sources in the Trinamul Congress Chhatra Parishad said a team was likely to meet officials of the education department on Wednesday to report “irregularities” in the school.
“We will demand that an administrator be immediately appointed for the school as it does not have an elected managing committee. The headmistress has named members of her choice to committee,” a leader of the student wing said.
He said Trinamul representatives had met headmistress Ghosh last June to press for an elected managing committee. Their list of allegations against the school authorities included “poor handling of academic affairs” and favouritism in examinations.
This is, of course, not the first instance of the ruling party being accused of interfering in the affairs of academic institutions.
One of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s promises in her call to paribartan was to rid education of politics, a Bengal tradition for which she blames the CPM.
In April, former Trinamul MLA Arabul Islam, the president of the governing body of Bhangar Mahavidyalaya in South 24-Parganas, was accused of sending a jug crashing into a lady teacher’s chin during an argument in the staff room.
“Politics in academic institutions has intensified in the last 18 months, and that is reflected in the frequency of campus violence across the state. But the chief minister has done nothing about it and that has boosted the morale of those behind such incidents,” said Ritabrata Banerjee, the all-India general secretary of the Students’ Federation of India.