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College triggers turf war
Violence erupts as govt sleeps on poll promise

Unrest dossier

The Mamata Banerjee government’s promise to stamp out campus violence fell flat on Tuesday following the death of a sub-inspector, who was part of a contingent deployed in front of a Garden Reach college to quell a clash over students’ union election.

Many academic institutions across Bengal had erupted in violence over student body polls since Trinamul came to power but records reveal that only around 15 persons have been booked (see chart).

“The government’s stated intention of acting against people involved in campus violence is yet to be translated into action. That failure led to Tuesday’s fatal consequence at Harimohan Ghose College,” said the principal of a city college that has recently been rocked by violence.

Till now, the government has announced several short-term and long-term measures to change the way in which campus polls are conducted. All have remained on paper, paving the way for hooligans holding educational institutions to ransom.

Nearly seven months have passed since the West Bengal State Council of Higher Education filed its recommendations on how to conduct peaceful elections at colleges and universities. The government, despite all its promises, is yet to announce whether it will accept the council’s suggestions or not.

One of the suggestions was that every college and university introduce online distribution and submission of nomination forms as on most occasions violence erupts during the initial stage of election.

“At most colleges and universities, rivals try to prevent each other from collecting and submitting nomination forms. If the process can be made online, half the chance of violence will be eliminated,” said a council source.

The committee had also envisaged a bigger role for police in campus polls to prevent local goons from playing any role.

“We had suggested that a uniform code be framed for the elections and all colleges and universities in the state go to poll on a single day to prevent mobilisation of lumpen elements,” said a member of the committee that had drawn up the suggestions.

The other suggestions of the committee include holding campus elections every two years (now polls are held every year), debarring students with less than 75 per cent attendance from contesting the polls and making it mandatory for organisations to take permission from the authorities to conduct a campaign.

Some college principals Metro spoke to said the Trinamul government was reluctant to implement the recommendations as it wanted to carry on with the Left practice of having a say in the affairs of the colleges by keeping the unions under control.

“The paribartan chant was a sham. The Mamata government is actually following in the footsteps of the Left Front dispensation,” said a teacher of Harimohan Ghose College.

“On the few occasions the government did act, the action smacked of bias,” a teacher of another college pointed out.

At Raigunj College in north Bengal, arrested Trinamul activists were released on bail but SFI supporters were charged with non-bailable offences.

Ahead of last year’s polls, the government had drawn up a temporary plan to prevent campus violence during students’ union elections. In one such measure, the government had asked Calcutta University to ask its colleges to hold the polls in coordination with the city police. No such order has been issued this year.