The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll siege on campus
- Presidency College erupts as routed SFI locks in rival students

Presidency College was on the boil on Friday, following a series of clashes between activists of the SFI, the CPM's student wing, and the Independent Consolidation (IC), an apolitical lobby. On Friday, the IC had bagged all the 11 posts of office-bearers in the union elections.

At least four students were injured in the clashes. Bidhan Mondal, SFI, was admitted to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. The other three are IC supporters, sources said.

With police remaining mute spectators from morning, SFI supporters laid siege to the college after the IC sweep, with support from the Progressive Democratic Students' Federation (PDSF).

'The SFI supporters surrounded the college and chased the IC boys and girls inside. They would not allow anyone from the IC-PDSF combine to leave the campus. Many were forced into the canteen or classrooms,' said a witness.

'I have no idea what is going on inside. I am unable to contact my daughter from morning,' said the mother of a student, waiting in front of the college gate in the evening.

The siege and the pandemonium continued till late evening, with the campus and College Street reverberating with slogans. The situation eased slightly when Ajay Kumar, deputy inspector-general of police (central) reached with a large contingent from Lalbazar. Keeping the contingent waiting outside, Kumar entered the college to try and get the SFI supporters to lift the siege, but in vain.

A reconstruction of the chain of events showed that Friday's trouble erupted soon after the process of election of office-bearers began. The situation worsened around 2 pm, when the results showed that the post of assistant general secretary was tied at 37-37.

The IC-PDSF combine smelt a rat when a headcount revealed that 73 of a total of 74 class representatives were present, so a tie was out of the question. A re-election followed and fresh counting of ballots showed that all posts of office-bearers had gone to the IC-PDSF combine.

SFI leaders then incited their supporters to detain IC-PDSF activists on campus. They were also seen threatening college teachers and officials, demanding cancellation of the ballots and holding of a fresh election. 'We won't allow you to declare the results or leave the campus till the matter is sorted out,' they said.

'According to rules, the results need to be declared by Friday midnight. If the meeting (between teachers) fails to come to a conclusion by then, the election will automatically stand cancelled,' said Basudeb Nag Choudhury, Presidency College unit vice-president of the SFI.

Neither principal Mamata Roy nor any college official was available for comment.

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