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More hurt than angry

It took a couple of hours for the truth to sink in: that she could be held hostage in her school by her own girls.

But not once in the more than 24-hour siege, including around 16 hours without food, did Sreemati Ghosh lose her composure. Yes, she was disappointed that her students had started it all, but she couldn’t bring herself to ask police to use force to end the protest.

The headmistress of Santoshpur Rishi Aurobindo Valika Vidyapeeth said it was her choice not to ask the police to rescue her and the rest of the staff members held hostage over the Class XII selection test results.

“I am more shocked than angry at the behaviour of the students. Actually, I am very sad. I wish this had not happened in my school,” Ghosh told Metro.

By the time she exited the school gate at 4.03pm on Tuesday, Ghosh had completed 30 hours at work since Monday morning, most of it as a hostage. She hadn’t faced anything like this before in the 30 years she has been a part of the school as a teacher, including the last three as its headmistress.

“It is a very dangerous sign that students are nowadays behaving in this manner. If we succumb to these pressure tactics now, it will set a wrong precedent. Younger students might hold their teachers hostage tomorrow if not allowed to sit for their board exams because they haven’t cleared their selection test,” Ghosh, a resident of Behala, warned.

So does she think political support might have encouraged the Class XII girls of the school, all of them in their teens, to carry out such a protest? “I hope not,” the headmistress said.

Those who know her well say Ghosh, an alumnus of the erstwhile Presidency College, is far from the stereotypical image of the stern-faced, humourless school headmistress.

She is on Facebook, where she loves to reconnect with old friends, including those from her days at the Dum Dum Government Sponsored Girl’s High School.

Her son Reetam, a former student of Don Bosco Park Circus and Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi, is currently employed in Ivory Coast.

“Ma’am came to school at 10.30am on Monday to attend a meeting with the teachers. The agitation started in the afternoon and was lifted on Tuesday at 1.30pm. But she stayed on and finished pending work pertaining to the examination results of the other classes,” said a colleague holed up with her during the siege.

Once Ghosh realised that the protest wouldn’t be called off in a hurry, she made sure that protesting students at least allowed two pregnant teachers to leave the school. The duo stepped out a little after 4.30pm, just over an hour after the start of the siege.

Those who were held hostage till the next afternoon said they drew strength from their headmistress’s calmness during the ordeal. “She was adamant about only one thing: that what the girls were doing was wrong and the HS council should not give in,” a colleague said.

What do you think of the way the headmistress handled the siege? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com