Protesters block the south-bound flank of the thoroughfare at Sovabazar on Monday afternoon. (Sanat Kr Sinha)
Commuters making their way through north and central Calcutta on Monday afternoon paid the price for a group of students failing their school examinations.
Traffic along the length of Central Avenue was disrupted for three-and-a-half hours after some students of Shyambazar AV School and their parents blocked the road at Sovabazar in protest against the results of the pre-board tests for classes X and XII.
Of the 143 students who wrote the Class X test, 39 failed to clear it. In Class XII, 47 out of the 171 students didn’t make the grade in the results announced last Friday.
A 100-strong group comprising students and their guardians squatted on the road 50 metres from Sovabazar Metro station at 1pm, stalling traffic and charging at vehicles that tried to pass through the gaps.
Another hundred protesters stood outside the locked main gate of the school, shouting slogans against headmaster Manoranjan Kumar Raptan. Some parents tried to forcibly enter the school building around 3.30pm, but were pushed back by police. Around 4.15pm, a delegation of 10 parents was allowed in.
In September, a mob that included parents and outsiders had ransacked Dum Dum’s Christ Church Girls’ High School to protest the death of a Class V student.
On that occasion, the police had done little to keep the mob at bay. Principal Helen Sircar was not only made to apologise in the presence of police but also forced to give her resignation in writing.
The blockade at Shyambazar AV was lifted at 4.30pm without the headmaster budging from his stand that the students who had failed the internal tests did not deserve to write the board exams. He later agreed to allow the students to check their evaluated answer scripts.
The roadblock forced traffic along Central Avenue to be diverted through parallel roads, resulting in snarls on College Street and Bidhan Sarani. While south-bound traffic was diverted through APC Roy Road and Bidhan Sarani. North-bound traffic took Colootala Street, College Street and Bidhan Sarani.
The protesters had first assembled in front of the school around noon. The students said they had been “unfairly” detained.
Some former students and the aggrieved parents argued that the number of examinees who had failed the pre-board tests was abnormally high.
Their ire was mostly directed at headmaster because he refused to review the results. “The headmaster wouldn’t entertain any queries or give us mark sheets. We didn’t get mark sheets even when we were promoted from Class XI to XII last April,” said a science student who was told in class that he had failed in all six papers.
The boy had passed Madhyamik with 86.1 per cent.
Headmaster Raptan contested the allegations. “This (protesting results) is a new trend and it is alarming. We will not allow this to continue,” he said.
Raptan is likely to meet a delegation of parents again on Tuesday. A meeting between education department officials and guardians has also been organised at Shyampukur police station.