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Puja committee learns a tuition lesson
- Students’ parents press for tutor return

Mahapatra at his rented flat in Ranaghat on Saturday night. Picture by Manoj Biswas

Ranaghat, Dec. 15: A neighbourhood in Nadia’s Ranaghat has compelled its local Puja committee members to bring back and apologise to a teacher who had fled home after being beaten up over a subscription demand.

With the exam season round the corner, the parents of students Surojit Mahapatra taught in his rented flat in Ranaghat said they needed the “good” Physics teacher to return and resume his classes.

Several members of Rajbaganpara Barowari Puja Committee had beaten up 32-year-old Mahapatra on October 22 with bamboo sticks when he had refused to pay Rs 1,500 as subscription. The assault prompted Mahapatra to leave his rented flat.

But less than two months later, the same Puja committee was compelled to request the teacher to return to the locality and resume teaching Physics to his students, several of whom will appear for the board exams and the joint entrance test three months from now.

What compelled the committee to act was the persistent demand of parents, many of whom said their children’s studies had suffered because of the committee’s action.

Around 20 members of the committee yesterday organised a meeting where they pleaded with Mahapatra to return to resume teaching students in the rented flat.

The meeting was also attended by residents, several of them parents of Mahapatra’s students.

Puja committee president Hemanta Pal said the assault on the teacher had made the residents “angry”.

“He is a very good teacher and many boys and girls in the area went to him for tuitions. Their parents held us responsible for his departure. They told us to bring Mahapatra back. We decided to request the teacher to come back to his Ranaghat flat and apologise to him for what we had done. We realised that students should not bear the brunt of our fault,” Pal said.

Resident Goutam Roy, a government employee whose son took tuitions from Mahapatra, said: “We are happy that good sense prevailed on the puja organisers.”

Teacher Ajoy Kumar Singh, whose son Atrija also went to Mahapatra for coaching, said the club members should have apologised “much earlier”. “In the past three years, many of Mahapatra’s students qualified the joint entrance exam. They are in reputed colleges now,” he said.

The committee’s treasurer Debashis Debnath said: “We took time to apologise because there is a police case against some of us. We realised that the assault on the teacher sent out a wrong message in the neighbourhood. When Mahapatra left the locality, students who went to him for tuitions found it difficult to cope with their studies.”

Indra Bhattacharjee, an accounts officer with Eastern Railway, said his son “Souvik cracked the JEE” because of Mahapatra’s coaching. “He also teaches many poor students free of cost,” Bhattacharjee said.

Asked about the assault and the subsequent apology by the club members, Mahapatra said: “I was assaulted as I had protested against the high subscription they had demanded from me. I wanted to send the message that people should not be taken for granted. There should be more protests against forcible collection of chanda.”

The Puja committee yesterday assured the teacher that they would never collect subscription forcibly. The members then went to the local police station and wrote an undertaking.

An officer at Ranaghat police station, however, said the apology or the undertaking did not mean that the cases would be withdrawn. “The law will take its own course,” he said. The unmarried high school Physics teacher had been staying with his father in Hooghly’s Konnagar since the assault on him on the night of October 22 forced him to leave the flat.

Mahapatra lodged a complaint on October 31 by sending a letter to Ranaghat police station.

Club members Sarit Chatterjee, a technician, Subhankar Hazra, a contract employee with a private bank, and Utpal Chakraborty, who sells imitation jewellery, were named by Mahapatra in the police complaint. The three apologised to the teacher yesterday.

Ranaghat police had not arrested the trio and said they were absconding. However, it could not be immediately ascertained when the three returned home.