|Archbishop Thomas D’Souza at the news
conference on Monday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta, Sept. 16: The Archbishop of Calcutta today referred to the “rampant hooliganism” and “total police inaction” at Christ Church Girls’ High School on September 12, sign-posting the cardinal questions the vandalism has thrown up.
All Christian schools and colleges and all ICSE schools across Bengal will be shut on Thursday to mark a “black day” for education, the Archbishop announced on behalf of the West Bengal Association of Christian Schools.
Over 1,000 schools in the state are expected to join the closure on Thursday as the authorities of 300 ICSE and ISC schools run by non-Christian organisations have also decided to keep classes suspended to protest against the vandalism at Christ Church school. The heads of nearly 60 Anglo-Indian schools in Bengal, too, will keep their schools shut that day.
“We strongly condemn the vandalism that followed in the school from 10am till late evening (on September 12)…. We are closing the schools and colleges to impress upon the government and society that Christian minority schools, both English medium and vernacular, need security and support if they have to give quality education to all,” the Archbishop, Most Rev. Thomas D’Souza, told a rare media conference.
The Archbishop is the head of the Calcutta Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church and the president of the West Bengal Association of Christian Schools, an organisation of the founder bodies of all Christian missionary institutions in Bengal.
Referring to the child who died, the Archbishop said: “We are deeply sad at the demise of Oindrilla Das…. Our sympathy, condolences and prayers are with the bereaved family.”
A statement signed by the Archbishop and the association secretary, Rev. Moloy D’Costa, listed four reasons for observing the “black day” by closing the schools for a day.
To “protest the total police inaction to control the unruly mob”.
To “condemn the rampant hooliganism in a girls’ school for hours on end, causing trauma to the headmistress and lady teachers”.
To “strongly protest against the damage to school property and valuable documents”.
To “demand immediate release of Mrs Helen Sircar”, the principal. (The statement was released a short while before Sircar was granted bail around 2.30pm.)
“We strongly demand that all those responsible for such vandalism be identified, arrested immediately and punished for their criminal act of sabotage, destruction of school property, including valuable documents, and the trauma caused by them to all,” the Archbishop said.
After a two-day stupor, the police have so far arrested 14 people suspected of vandalism.
The Archbishop said “a good beginning” had been made and chief minister Mamata Banerjee had assured him the vandals would be identified when she had called him on Sunday.
“The chief minister has assured us that the government has started arresting those who were involved. This is a good beginning but a lot more has to be done. We are hopeful that appropriate action will be taken to ensure security and safety of our institutions,” the Archbishop said.
The Archbishop expressed his gratitude to governor M.K. Narayanan who had wondered: “If parents don’t have discipline, what can you expect of children?”
Church authorities said it was not unusual for parents to have problems with a school management. “But we believe that problems should be sorted out through dialogue and, if necessary, through legal means but not through vandalism as we have seen in the case of Christ Church School,” the Archbishop said.
The Church authorities also believe that many among the attackers were not guardians at all. “We believe that parents and well-wishers of the school will not damage its property and documents that pertain to students,” the Archbishop said.
NOTHING TO SAY
The following are the responses from two senior-most officers, asked about the
Archbishop’s statement on “total police
inaction” on the day of the vandalism
Naparajit Mukherjee, DGP, Bengal:
I can’t say what the Archbishop has said…
Vishal Garg, commissioner,
Barrackpore police commissionerate
under which Dum Dum falls:
I have nothing to say