|Helen Sircar at Bishop’s House in Calcutta on Wednesday.
Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, Sept. 18: The principal of Christ Church Girls’ High School today said police had “throughout acted according to the words of the mob” on Thursday.
“The mob was mounting pressure and… police throughout acted according to the words of the mob,” Sircar told reporters at Bishop’s House in her first comments in public since her release on bail yesterday.
Sircar desisted from disclosing the police response in particular circumstances or what they told her and declined to discuss specific points in the ongoing case. But her description of the events, in response to questions during the informal interaction with the media, confirmed what was obvious on the ground on Thursday: police inaction in the face of vandalism.
On the death of Oindrilla Das, the Class V student, Sircar said: “I am sorry and beside the bereaved family…. I am very sorry about the incident. We are always with them.”
Asked if she would call on the bereaved family, the principal said: “I will certainly go. I had wanted to go that day (Thursday) itself but parents created such a situation that I could not step out. I will definitely go at an appropriate time.”
Sircar said “the situation that was created because of that incident should not have happened… (it is) a very unfortunate (situation) for any educational institution to face”.
The principal said she was forced to court arrest and had agreed, keeping in mind the safety and security of her colleagues and the girls at the hostel. “I was forced to court arrest under pressure by the police and by the mob…. I was not arrested on my own like that…” she added.
The situation had reached such a state that the security of the teachers, non-teaching staff and students was “at stake”, the principal recalled.
“As the head of the institution, the safety of the students, teachers and staff comes first. I saw my teachers, non-teaching staff and students at the hostel in a very critical situation even after I gave my resignation. So to avoid any further trouble I had to resign…. Considering all these things, I had to give in to the police,” Sircar said in response to a question.
Asked if the police told her to resign for the safety of her colleagues and students, Sircar again replied: “I have no comments.”
The Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in Calcutta had referred in a statement to the “rampant hooliganism” and “total police inaction” at Christ Church school and announced that all Christian schools and colleges across Bengal would be shut on September 19 to mark a “Black Day for education”.
Sircar said she had called the police seeking “protection”.
“I had said what I should have at that particular time, that ‘please come and give us protection’,” Sircar said.
Asked if she had got the protection, she said: “They were there but it was during their presence that the vandalism took place.”
The vandals had gone from room to room, smashing doors and windowpanes, ransacking cabinets and destroying equipment in the presence of the police. Asked if she had asked the police to act, Sircar said: “Yes, certainly.”
How did the police respond to that? “I think you all know about it. I have nothing to say,” she said.
Asked if the experience was traumatic, Sircar said: “Every moment of it.”
On whether she would want to return to the school, Sircar said: “I have not voluntarily resigned. I was made to resign. I was forced to resign. So the resignation question does not arise. The inquiry committee is going ahead with the matter.”
Asked when she would return, she said: “Time will speak.”
The principal cited the response of several students and guardians as evidence of her innocence. “I think my students and guardians have proved it because they have vocally said they want me back and that is proof of my innocence.”
The principal said she had not received “any complaints till date” that some senior students were regularly ragging juniors and seeking money from them.
Asked whether three senior students had allegedly asked Oindrilla to bring Rs 100, Sircar said: “Investigations are going on. I can’t say anything right now.”
In reply to another question, Sircar said: “The only message is that I love my students and it is (because of) the love, trust and the faith of my students and the guardians of my school, the teaching staff and the governing body that I am here before them.”
The state human rights commission has ordered a probe into the death of the child, the vandalism, the police action and the principal’s arrest.