The Rajaramchak Shiksha Niketan. Picture by Jahangir Badsa
Tamluk, Jan. 4: Members of a club allegedly backed by Trinamul stopped teachers from entering a Nandigram school today after they failed to pay Rs 50,000 for a sports meet and a soiree, days after a party-organised song-and-dance programme was widely criticised.
The allegations come at a time Mamata Banerjee has been repeatedly telling her partymen not to indulge in extortion.
The Shanti Sporting Club organises annual cricket and football tournaments and a soiree at this time of the year. The tournaments have started while the soiree will be held on Sunday.
The headmaster of Rajaramchak Shiksha Niketan, Saumitra Chakraborty, said the club members came to the school before the Christmas vacation and demanded that he and the 22 teachers pay Rs 50,000 for the events.
“We discussed the issue among ourselves and decided to give them Rs 8,000. I offered the club members the money when they came to my office yesterday. They refused to accept the money and threw the bundle of notes on my table. Before leaving, they threatened that no teacher would be allowed to enter the school,” Chakraborty said. The school reopened yesterday.
After classes gave over yesterday, the club members allegedly stopped some teachers outside the school and threatened them again. “Around 10 members stopped some of us when we were returning home. They said we would be in grave danger if we didn’t pay,” said physics teacher Rajendranath Roy.
Another teacher said the school was forced to pay subscription for the club’s programme every year. “But never had they demanded so much money. In 2010, we paid Rs 5,000 and in 2011, we paid Rs 7,000. Last year, they took Rs 15,000, saying they wanted to hold a big programme as Trinamul had come to power. But they had said they would not demand any money from this year. So we were surprised when the club demanded Rs 50,000,” the teacher said.
When the teachers came to the school at 10am today, they saw around 20 club members blocking the main gate.
“They stopped us from entering the school and only allowed the students to go inside. They told us that we would be allowed in only after we paid Rs 50,000,” the physics teacher said.
Residents said the club members were Trinamul supporters. Trinamul’s Abu Taher, the deputy chief of the Nandigram panchayat samiti who had played a prominent role in the anti-land acquisition agitation, inaugurated the football tournament yesterday.
The club denied having pressured the school to pay the money. Treasurer Sheikh Moidul said: “We organise the events every year and the teachers contribute. But we never forced or obstructed them.”
Many of the 100 parents who had come to the school today to get their children admitted to Class V had to return because of the agitation.
Farmer Sheikh Zahiruddin, who had come to admit his daughter, said: “We saw the club members blocking the teachers. As the teachers were not allowed to enter, the admission process could not start.”
Some of the parents pushed the club members away from the gate following an altercation. After that, the teachers entered the school around noon. No classes were held today. Around 60 students were admitted.
In the evening, headmaster Chakraborty lodged a police complaint.
The additional superintendent of police, Haldia, Amitava Maity, said: “We have received the complaint and a probe has been started.”
Trinamul leader Taher, who is also the secretary of the school managing committee, said: “I have heard there was some problem at the school. I had gone to Tamluk. I will visit the school tomorrow and find out what happened. If the club members are at fault, we will take appropriate steps.”
Taher avoided the question whether the club members were Trinamul supporters. “Now even tree leaves claim they are Trinamul supporters,” he said.
District CPM secretary Kanu Sahoo referred to the drink-and-dance session at a Trinamul foundation day programme in Bhangar on Tuesday night and said: “This is the culture of Trinamul. Look what happened in Bhangar. A Trinamul leader showered wads of currency notes during a song-and-dance programme. They are now organising sports meets and musical soirees. It is clear Trinamul is trying to extort money from the schoolteachers.”