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Union fight takes toll on CU
- Students’ and teachers’ outfits at Rajabazar Science College locked in turf war, attendance drops

Calcutta, July 16: Rajabazar Science College is caught in a bitter turf war between the students’ and teachers’ wings of the Trinamul Congress and the CPM, prompting many students to stay away from the campus.

A senior official of Calcutta University’s Rajabazar campus told The Telegraph that last week, attendance had dropped from 70 per cent to 55 per cent, prompting the authorities to take unprecedented steps such as deploying police on the campus.

No physiology department student attended classes between Wednesday and Friday. On Monday last week, physiology department professor Roshnara Mishra, the daughter of CPM leader Surjya Kanta Mishra, was kept confined for three hours along with research scholars by Trinamul Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) leaders.

“I can’t remember the last time we had to call the police to ensure classes are held in peace,” a CU official said.

CU vice-chancellor Suranjan Das asked registrar Basab Choudhury earlier this week to write to Amherst Street police station “requesting the deployment of the police inside the Rajabazar campus from July 14 to ensure safety”.

Although the Rajabazar campus authorities are confident that the police deployment would bring normality back to the campus, many students are not convinced.

Problem genesis

Rajabazar Science College, which has 2,000 students, has become a conflict zone because the CPM students’ and teachers’ unions still hold sway there unlike at the other six CU campuses.

In the last students’ union election held at CU, the SFI trumped the TMCP at Rajabazar. While the SFI has 57 class representatives at Rajabazar Science College, the TMCP has 28.

The CPM-backed West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association (WBCUTA) is much more dominant than the Trinamul-affiliated West Bengal College University Professors’ Association (WBCUPA) at the Rajabazar campus.

With the TMCP, led by state president Shankudeb Panda, trying to break the Left hegemony at Rajabazar Science College, the campus has become a flare-up zone.

“Shankudeb is leading the charge. He visits the Rajabazar campus regularly and organises rallies there to mobilise cadres,” a TMCP leader said.

The WBCUPA has decided to throw its weight behind Panda.

Campus ‘target’

Several Trinamul leaders said the “target” at Rajabazar Science College was Roshnara, an assistant professor.

“She is the backbone of the CPM on the campus and the brain behind SFI and WBCUTA activities there. If we can neutralise her, we can break the CPM’s hold on the Rajabazar campus,” said a Trinamul leader.

Roshnara has been active in Left politics since her student days and is popular among students, a Rajabazar Science College source said.

But after the change of guard in the state, Roshnara ran into trouble with the ruling dispensation.

Former education minister Bratya Basu sought to review her academic credentials and took reports on her appointments to Surendranath College and Rajabazar Science College.

“Nothing was found amiss. Then they (Trinamul) started targeting her even more,” said a colleague of Roshnara who did not wish to be named.

On several occasions, the TMCP has publicly criticised her and put up posters dubbing her the “face of harmads” on the Rajabazar campus.

Recent flare-up

On July 7, TMCP leader Sourav Adhikary and his aides squatted outside the physiology department, intensifying the attacks on Roshnara.

“It was uncalled for. Roshnara was holding a meeting with research scholars in the department. As this Trinamul leader was sitting outside, she and the research scholars could not come out for over three hours. The siege was withdrawn when journalists arrived,” the colleague said.

According to some colleagues of Roshnara, repeated attempts to contact the university authorities failed. WBCUTA members accused the university authorities of going soft on TMCP leaders and staged protests on the Rajabazar campus before submitting a memorandum to vice-chancellor Das at a syndicate meeting on July 9.

While the syndicate meeting was going on at CU’s College Street campus, Panda and his aides barged into the main building and protested.

As the TMCP supporters kept shouting slogans, the meeting of the syndicate — the highest decision-making body of CU — had to be stopped midway.

“Such an incident had never happened at the College Street campus. But the authorities did not take any steps,” a WBCUTA member said.

On July 14, WBCUTA held a meeting where it was decided that the vice-chancellor would be approached again.

A day later, around 200 WBCUPA activists protested at the College Street campus and forced VC Das to come out of his chamber and meet them at Darbhanga Hall. “Rein in Roshnara or face consequences,” some WBCUPA activists were heard telling Das.

Helpless authorities

Das, who had been planning to initiate a dialogue with unions to stop rallies and sit-ins on campuses during class hours, assured the WBCUPA that its demands would be looked into at the next syndicate meeting.