|Arabul Islam (file picture); centre-in-charge Gopa Roy.
Picture by Bibhash Lodh
March 14: The centre-in-charge of a higher secondary exam venue in South 24-Parganas’ Bhangar today alleged that Trinamul leader Arabul Islam stormed into classrooms and instructed invigilators to help students with answers.
The alleged incident took place at Narayanpur High School, around 30km from Calcutta, between noon and 12.20pm in the middle of the English exam, held from 10am to 1pm.
An invigilator who did not want to be named told The Telegraph later that Arabul came to the school along with seven or eight persons and wondered after entering one of the classrooms why there were as many as three guards for an English test. “Who is in charge of the hall? Help them (examinees) out so that they can write the answers. Don’t stop them if the examinees want to see something and write,” the teacher, who said he was “dumbfounded” by the sudden entry and instructions, quoted Arabul as saying.
The centre-in-charge, Gopa Roy, alleged that Arabul entered several classrooms on the ground and first floors “so fast that we could not immediately figure out what to do”.
She lodged a complaint at the HS council’s Salt Lake headquarters at the end of the day, when she went there with the answer scripts after the second session of the exam (from 1.30pm to 3.30pm).
“All of a sudden, he landed up at the centre and kept going from one room to another, telling the invigilators to help the examinees with answers. He also assured the examinees that the invigilators would help them with all the answers. When I asked him how he could enter the centre, Arabul Islam verbally abused and threatened me before leaving the venue,” said Roy, the headmistress of a nearby primary school.
Roy said the examination was peaceful before Arabul entered and after he left but “in between, there was this period of unrest”.
Education minister Bratya Basu said tonight: “We are looking into the allegations. I have sought a report from the council.”
Arabul, the president of the Trinamul-run Bhangar panchayat samiti, denied having entered the school. “I was not inside the school. The centre-in-charge is making false allegations and trying to malign me,” he said.
Local police, too, seemed to be supporting his version. A senior officer of Bhangar police station said Arabul “had gone close to the school but not entered it”.
South 24-Parganas additional superintendent of police (east) K.P. Barui said: “No one has lodged a complaint at Bhangar police station. However, I have sought a report from the police station.”
Centre-in-charge Roy said she had called the officer-in-charge of the police station, Ashis Das, to brief him about Arabul’s visit and “he said such an incident would not happen again”.
According to the council’s rules, no outsider can enter a school building when an exam is in progress. Only those who are assigned exam-related jobs can enter a venue by showing their identity proof. No one, except invigilators assigned duty in a particular exam hall and observers can enter a classroom during an exam.
“The police have been instructed to detain any unauthorised person entering the campus,” a council official said.
At Narayanpur, an assistant sub-inspector and two constables were on duty at the school’s entrance. During Arabul’s alleged visit, the centre secretary, a teacher of the Narayanpur school, and two other nominees of the HS council, who are teachers of other schools, were present.
Centre-in-charge Roy wondered how Arabul could enter the campus evading the police. “The police should have stopped him. He was seen speaking to one of the students inside the hall,” she said.
Arabul, whose affidavit for the 2011 Assembly election says he is “10th Pass”, has been known to try and meddle in the affairs of academic institutions in his fief.
A president of the governing body of Bhangar Mahavidyalaya, Arabul’s angry gesticulations during a college governing body meeting in April 2012 had sent a jug crashing into a teacher’s chin. Debjani Dey had suffered a cut that required two stitches.
The incident triggered a debate on whether politicians should head governing bodies of colleges. Some demanded that a minimum educational qualification be fixed for a politician to be eligible to head such a body.
Among the protesters was Trinamul MP Saugata Roy. He had said: “I happen to be the president of the governing body of Asutosh College. But there is nothing to feel proud about being the head of a college governing body because I find that people who have only passed Class VIII now head these bodies.”