The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Some students in clash, most in class

Calcutta, Nov. 10: Clashes on College Street and classes in most colleges and schools — student strike day passed without much of an impact.

Supporters of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), a CPM arm, clashed with activists of the All India Democratic Students’ Organisation in their eagerness to foil the class-boycott call on Calcutta University’s College Street campus this morning.

SFI had to contend with Trinamul Congress Chhatra Parishad, the other outfit that had called the strike, in the afternoon. Police lathicharged students opposing and backing the strike.

The first round of clashes occurred even before the classes began. SFI supporters targeted the Democratic Students’ Organisation activists, who were preparing to squat on the campus to invite support for their protest against the government’s decision to punish six junior doctors at RG Kar Medical College.

A round of slogans and counter-slogans degenerated into a scuffle after some time. Police intervened but the combined effect of the clash and the police action was that ordinary students shied away from the campus.

There were some who tried to return in the afternoon but another clash — this one between SFI and Trinamul Congress Chhatra Parishad — drove them away. Heavily outnumbered, the SFI cadre fled behind closed gates and vented their ire on the varsity authorities and the police for failing to “prevent the strike”.

Trinamul activists marched to Writers’ Buildings demanding “swasthya (health)”, not “Surjya (Kanta Mishra, the health minister)” and bringing central Calcutta to a standstill. They were arrested at the Bowbazar Street-Phears Lane crossing.

Varsity officials admitted that very few classrooms were full. But in most other institutions, where strike opponents did not end up enforcing it, students attended classes in full strength. Almost every institution — schools, colleges and another university within the city, Jadavpur — reported a normal day.

South Point High School vice-president N.G. Khaitan said both junior and senior sections reported normal attendance. Malini Bhagat, the principal of the junior section of Mahadevi Birla Girls’ High School, said: “As normal as it could be.” A La Martiniere spokesperson said every class reported normal attendance.

There were minor hiccups, like at the primary section of Patha Bhavan, where buses that would bring students did not arrive. “All of us were here but, for some reason, the buses did not turn up,” primary section principal Pradipta Kanungo said.

But what hurt the strikers most was the poor response at the medical colleges. The authorities of every medical college in the city said they reported normal classes despite shrill campaigns for a “successful strike”.

Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital, Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, NRS and RG Kar had classes as usual.

Jyotirmay Datta, the head of ophthalmology at Calcutta National Medical College who took three classes, said every class had “normal attendance”. All other departments in the college reported similar figures. Medical College and Hospital deputy superintendent A.K. Biswas admitted there were meetings on the campus. “But classes went on despite that.”

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