Debasis Bej, deputy commissioner, detective department, Barrackpore, speaks to the principal on the terrace just before she apologised on Thursday
Calcutta, Sept. 17: Christ Church school teachers pleading with police to contain the mob were told that “we don’t have the orders”, according to sources who have spoken extensively to those besieged on Thursday.
Principal Helen Sircar pleaded with the police to stop the marauders but in vain, said a source who requested not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
“The police told her (Sircar) controlling a gathering of 200 people was ‘nothing for us but we don’t have the orders. We can do something provided we have orders’,” he added.
Sircar, who was released on bail yesterday, could not be contacted to verify the account. But multiple accounts by teachers and a section of police officers were in line with what the source said.
Other sources said the school had first called the police around 10am, when there were about 200 people, many of them banging on the principal’s door. The police did turn up but pleaded inability to act.
More than one teacher said they heard the police say “we have no instructions” to act. “They said they have instructions not to open water cannons on the crowd. They said since it’s an educational institution, they could not use force,” said a teacher.
The teacher found it ironic that the police could allow teachers to be chased in an educational institution and cite the sanctity of the campus to justify inaction.
Some of the teachers said they saw the “principal being physically assaulted” at one point.
The police personnel did try to protect the teachers by bolting the staff room from inside. But the mob broke open a window and started pelting the staff room with stones. That is when the teachers went under the table — a testimony to their helplessness that will forever remain a blot on law enforcement.
A teacher said she had fled to the first floor before the others had huddled in the ground-floor staff room. “In a small room, I hid myself. The guardians and many others had gone berserk,” said the teacher who was later taken ill.
Heavily fortified combat force personnel arrived on the campus around 1.30pm, but they stood by. Then tear gas and water cannons arrived, only to idle.
“Sircar had asked the police to help. The police had tear gas and water cannons but they declined to use them saying they had no such instructions from the top,” said the source.
At one point, the police started to push back the crowd. But as the scene was telecast, a senior officer called from outside and halted the momentary show of force, the sources said.
The mob landed in the prayer hall and smashed its glass doors, broke down wooden partitions between offices and used the planks of wood to launch renewed attacks.
“I saw three or four young men with rods smashing the auditorium (that doubles as the prayer room), while two or three cops stood there, right there, not as policemen but spectators,” said a teacher.
Some attackers allegedly snatched mobile phones if they saw teachers using them. “We kept the mobile phones hidden in our bags because the guardians accused us of leaking news outside. ‘Baire khabar dichchhe,’ they said. They reminded us that we were enjoying ‘privileges like lights and fans from their money’,” another teacher said.
The first police action appeared to have been an effort to broker peace by coaxing the principal to resign.
“It is impossible to control this mob. You resign, then we won’t have to arrest you,” a source quoted an officer as telling the principal.
But 10 minutes after Sircar wrote two letters under duress, the police told her she was being arrested because the mob was not happy with just the resignation.
“Sircar told them (the police) ‘you lied to make me resign’,” the source said.
“What can we do? We have orders,” the officer was quoted as saying.
THE CHAIN OF
The sequence of the police response and the chain of command,
according to information gathered by
The Telegraph from multiple sources
School calls Dum Dum police station for help
● OC Dum Dum, Prabir Chatterjee,
arrives with a handful of personnel from the station
● What he did: Finding that the mob had swelled to 200, he contacts the headquarters and the additional deputy commissioner (ADC), Belghoria, for more personnel. The adjoining police stations are alerted seeking reinforcements. Chatterjee remains on the spot the entire day, reporting the incidents to the ADC and conveying them to the control room till ADC Biswajit Ghosh arrives and takes charge
● Chatterjee on Tuesday: I don’t want to comment. I am not authorised to comment
● OCs from five police stations — Khardah, Baranagar, Nimta, Belghoria and Dum Dum — are at the spot with reinforcements
● What they did: All of them enter the school building but largely stand by. Belghoria OC tries to push a group back with his force but is stopped by his senior, ADC Biswajit Ghosh
● OCs on Tuesday (responding to a question on why nothing was done to contain the mob)
■ OC Belghoria, Subrata Bhowmick: No response (Did not respond to calls)
■ OC Khardah, Somnath Das: Why should I answer this question?
■ OC Nimta, Sankar Prasad Biswas:
I have no knowledge about this
■ OC Baranagar, Himadri Bandapadyay: Please contact DC DD Debasis Bej for details. (DC DD stands for deputy commissioner, detective department)
● Assistant commissioner of police-II (Belghoria), Md Nasim, reaches the spot, accompanied by a small contingent
● What he did: Initially, he goes inside the school and occupies a chair at the prayer hall. When the crowd starts vandalising the hall, he moves out of the building and takes a chair beside the garden on the school premises, according to police sources. For the rest of the day, he is spotted in and around the garden, making occasional phone calls. (Asked then by reporters why he was not doing anything to stop the mob, he had said he was following his superior’s instructions to “check the security outside the school building”
● Nasim on Tuesday: I cannot comment on this. Please contact my superior, DC DD (Debasis Bej), who is the authorised
person. I will not comment on who was instructing whom
Additional deputy commissioner, Biswajit Ghosh arrives
● What he did: Ghosh positions himself before the principal’s room and escorts her to the adjacent room when the mob breaks in.
Around 1.30pm, he comes out of the school and escorts the team of combat force into the school building. He posts the combat force at the entrance and officers with tear gas shells face the crowd. Apparently asks the force to make sure that no
one is hurt
● Ghosh on Tuesday: It’s an old incident. I do not want to comment on that now. All I can say is that the investigation is under progress
DC DD, Barrackpore,
Debasis Bej, arrives
● What he did: Bej wades into the crowd with folded hands and asks them to be patient. The crowd does not relent and he asks the crowd over a loud hailer to list their demands. Three persons step forward and seek the principal’s apology.
Bej rushes to the principal, takes her to the first-floor
balcony and convinces her that an apology will work.
He stands by the principal as she apologises with folded hands on the loud hailer. He requests the crowd to move but it demands her resignation. Bej initially tries to negotiate with the mob. “I have a daughter at my home. She goes to a school, too. I understand your demands. But this is not the way,” he tells
The crowd is adamant. Bej speaks to the principal for several minutes after which she writes her resignation.
Around 7pm, Bej announces that the principal has resigned and the crowd erupts in celebration. A while later, he arrests the principal
● Bej on Tuesday: I was in touch with my seniors. At that point of time, we did what we thought was best to control the situation. Had we resorted to lathicharge and sprayed water, considering the sensitivity of the case because of a little girl’s death, the situation could have turned more serious. Several people could have been injured and many teachers could have also been molested or injured. But we made sure that none of the teachers was hurt
Barrackpore, Vishal Garg
Did not go to the spot
● What he did: Sources say he is briefed from time to time by officers on the spot. Sources at Writers’ say Garg is in touch with senior officers in the state secretariat and is categorically asked by a minister “not to use force at any cost”
● Garg on Tuesday: The
officer did not take calls. Did not respond to a text message asking if Barrackpore police were “acting on instructions from top”
Additional director-general, law and order, Banibrata Basu
● What he did: At Writers’, monitoring the incident. Is in touch with the DGP to convey the information from
● Basu on Tuesday: Did not take calls. Did not reply to
a text message
DGP, Naparajit Mukherjee
● What he did: His job involves bringing the executive leadership up to date on the situation on the ground
● Mukherjee on Tuesday: Took the call but disconnected the moment the reporter
uttered the words “Christ Church”. Subsequent calls were not answered.