There is no more need for achievement level assessments in education in West Bengal. Whatever achievement level students reach in school, in college their real achievement seems to lie in beating up teachers — sometimes with motorbike chains — and destroying college property. Two such incidents occurred last Saturday, one in a college in North 24 Parganas and the other one in South Dinajpur. Instead of seeing these as two more isolated incidents, they should be added to the ongoing sequence of violence against teachers occurring everywhere in West Bengal.
It may be easy, and not incorrect, to see in such a sequence a reflection of the disorder, lawlessness and escalating violence that seem to have gripped the state at different levels. There would be some support for this point of view in the fact that some of these incidents are the result of efforts to penalize candidates cheating in examinations — as in the South Dinajpur college, for example. It is widely believed that political rivalry between Left student organizations and those of the Trinamul Congress has poisoned the atmosphere. This also means, of course, that students accused of violence often go unpunished, since they enjoy the patronage of certain parties — a point implicit in the governor’s responses to Saturday’s incidents. It is not only necessary to punish the guilty without fail, but also to identify the ways in which politicization is vitiating the ambience of education. Since holding back student union elections has not lessened the violence, it may be time to think afresh. The focus should be on trying to prevent political parties from interfering in student affairs. The students are in college to study, to discover the adult world, to make lives for themselves through their own choices, not to carry on political battles as proxies of different parties.