Students of Jogesh Chandra Chaudhuri College went on the rampage for hours on Friday night, breaking furniture and ransacking classrooms, to protest a college decision to suspend principal Manik Bhattacharya on charges of financial irregularities.
The college wore a deserted look on Saturday as a majority of students skipped classes fearing further trouble. The main gate was closed and members of the Trinamul Congress-controlled students’ union were found huddled inside the union room.
Prasanta Sur, former health minister and chairman of the college’s governing body, alleged on Saturday that principal Bhattacharya had incited the students to go on the rampage on the premises minutes after he was suspended. “Some students insulted me and other governing body members, and snatched the papers from us. The chaos went on for hours but Bhattacharya did not protest,” he added.
Members of the students’ union, however, have a different version of the Friday night incident. They said the trouble broke out only when some outsiders, allegedly CPM-backed criminals, stormed the college and attacked the union members. “Four of us were seriously injured when the CPM cadres attacked us with iron rods and bottles,” complained Sajal Saha, general secretary of the union and a member of the governing body.
A complaint was lodged with the Charu Market police, but no one was arrested. “We have a feeling that Sur and some other CPM leaders were behind the attack,” Saha said.
According to Sur, most of the governing body members who attended the meeting on Friday night were resolute about Bhattacharya’s suspension. “As chairman of the governing body, I cannot allow a person to continue as principal who has charges of financial irregularities against him. Besides, some women teachers have also complained against Bhattacharya,” he said, adding that a one-man inquiry committee has been instituted to probe the matter.
When contacted, Bhattacharya said he was yet to receive any suspension order. “Sur and his associates charged me with financial irregularities that took place in 1997-98. I became the secretary of the governing body in February 2000. The trust, which used to look after financial matters before I took over as principal in 1998, is responsible for this mess,” he maintained.
Bhattacharya also dismissed the allegation made by women teachers. “I was tough with those skipping classes. If this is misdemeanour, I am ready to do so to safeguard the interests of the students,” he added.
Local Trinamul Congress leader Dibendyu Biswas said the students would launch a state-wide protest against the governing body’s decision. “Sur has no authority to suspend the principal on the basis of vague allegations,” he said.
Anil Bhattacharya, general secretary of the CPM-controlled West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association, said they had received complaints from the teachers against the principal.