Police and RAF personnel outside Narayanpur High School on Saturday. Picture by Bibhash Lodh
Calcutta, March 15: Police sources and the higher secondary council today tried to pass responsibility following allegations that Trinamul leader Arabul Islam had barged into an exam centre yesterday and encouraged students to cheat.
Police officers said that restricting access to an exam centre was not their responsibility. The council indirectly blamed the teacher in charge of the North 24-Parganas exam centre for not seeking police help to remove Arabul.
The alleged intrusion has raised doubts across schools about how they should react if a powerful leader suddenly wanted to see how the exams were going.
“It is the responsibility of the centre-in-charge to ensure the exams are held peacefully,” said Mahua Das, president of the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education.
“We will seek an explanation from Gopa Roy, the centre-in-charge at Narayanpur High School, on how three outsiders were allowed to enter the premises while the exam was in progress,” Das said.
“We will also ask her why she didn’t seek assistance from the council or the police immediately. An inquiry will be held after the exams.”
Officially, senior council members merely said they would probe the incident. But many who spoke unofficially tried to pin the blame on Roy, a teacher from another school who was in charge of the centre and had complained against Arabul.
“The centre-in-charge is to blame for any untoward incident during an exam,” said an official.
Many other teachers this newspaper spoke to said they had faced similar situations but never complained.
Arabul, president of the Trinamul-run Bhangar panchayat samiti, had allegedly been let into the examination venue by a school guard. Three policemen posted outside the school during the exam yesterday had apparently not protested on the ground that regulating entry is not part of their responsibility.
Arabul allegedly went from classroom to classroom and told invigilators not to stop students if they wanted to cheat. He is also said to have asked the invigilators to help the students write their answers.
“Our prime concern is to maintain vigil outside the school to prevent cellphones and paper slips from being passed on to examinees from outside,” a police officer said.
“We are not authorised to control anyone’s entry into the building. That is the school’s responsibility. The police can intervene only if they (the school authorities) think someone has trespassed and seek our help.”
Roy today said it was not her job “to guard the school gate”. She refused comment on why she had not sought police help after she came to know about the alleged intrusion.
After Arabul left, she had called the officer in charge of Bhangar police station. Around 6pm, almost six hours after the alleged barge-in, she lodged a complaint with the higher secondary council.
According to the council’s rules, the school guard is supposed to inform the centre-in-charge in case someone wants to enter the building during an exam. The centre-in-charge has the power to clear entry. In case a centre-in-charge feels there has been or will be an intrusion, he or she can seek police assistance.
It is not clear whether the school guard had sought Roy’s permission to let Arabul in or whether the politician had barged in.
Arabul is so influential in the area that many in the local administration and the council admitted that it was impossible for a mere school guard to prevent him from entering.
Sources in schools in and around the city said political leaders often entered exam centres.
“It is often a confusing decision — who will restrict the entry of a powerful man into a school even if it is illegal? How can a mere guard stop a senior politician? How many teachers will dare call the police?” asked a teacher.