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The calls to VC and the long wait

Calcutta, July 24: The Calcutta University vice-chancellor’s phone rang in May but the one in Jorasanko police station did so only on Tuesday.

Between May and July 22 lay the imponderables surrounding one name: Abhishek Banerjee — which turned out to be fake.

A caller impersonating the chief minister’s nephew allegedly called up vice-chancellor Suranjan Das’s office at least five times since May and asked him to declare an unsuccessful student as passed. The registrar took the first call. The subsequent calls were taken by the vice-chancellor.

But the complaint was lodged only on Tuesday — after the vice-chancellor had ascertained that the call had not come from Abhishek and spoken to the young MP.

“I checked the Lok Sabha website and found the MP’s phone number there. The number did not match that of the caller. I contacted the MP, who asked me to lodge a police complaint,” Das told The Telegraph.

The VC did as told by the MP. The police traced the number to Nabadwip in Nadia and sent a team there last night. The team arrested a 22-year-old — a Banerjee whose first name is Souvik, not Abhishek — this morning.

Souvik has confessed, the police said. But they could not clarify if Souvik himself was the candidate or was calling on someone’s behalf. “We found he was from Banerjeepara in Nabadwip and picked him up from his residence,” said Pallab Kanti Ghosh, joint commissioner of police, crime.

According to the complaint lodged by the vice-chancellor, the first call was made to registrar Basab Chaudhuri in May. The caller introduced himself as Abhishek Banerjee and gave Chaudhuri the roll number of a candidate who had failed last year’s BA general examination.

Last year’s results came out by August 2013 and the review of marks was completed by September, university sources said.

“The complaint says the caller asked the registrar to declare a candidate successful. Since vice-chancellor Das was abroad at that time, the registrar told him that the matter would have to wait till the VC returned to the country,” said an officer investigating the case. “After the vice-chancellor returned, Souvik called him five to six times and kept insisting that the failed candidate be declared successful.”

The complaint states that the vice-chancellor told the caller every time that it would not be possible to declare a failed candidate as passed, said an officer of the Jorasanko police station.

“On Tuesday, he called up the VC and threatened him with dire consequences if Das did not pay heed to his instruction,” added the officer.

It appears that after such a threat, Das hunted for the Diamond Harbour MP’s number first and then went to the police.

Asked why he had waited so long to lodge a complaint, the vice-chancellor said: “I didn’t take the calls seriously. I knew they were fake calls. But on Tuesday, the caller threatened me with dire consequences and used abusive language. Then I realised that I needed to take a step considering my own security and the security of the university. And I also realised the person should be punished because he was identifying himself as an honourable MP.”

University sources said that around May-end — shortly after the calls started — the examination department had been informally asked to verify whether the roll number mentioned by the caller was genuine.

“The process to bring out an old answer script is very lengthy. The examination department had not made much headway in the matter,” said a source.

Asked if he would have considered the request to pass the failed student if it had indeed come from the chief minister’s nephew, the vice-chancellor said: “I believe an MP can never make such a request.”

The complaint was forwarded to Lalbazar by the deputy commissioner (north) and the action followed.

“Tracing Souvik was not a tough job because he had used his own cellphone to make the calls,” said an officer.


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