The schoolchildren’s rally in Kamduni on June 13. (Sanjib Chaki)
The headmaster of the Kamduni school showcaused by the state government in connection with a students’ march to protest the rape-murder in the Barasat village said on Sunday that he had done so out of a sense of “duty” towards the victim, a former student.
“When I came to this school 13 years ago, she (the victim) was a student of Class II. I have seen her beat the odds to keep studying and step into college. I have seen how she was trying to become a teacher. Isn’t it my social obligation, my duty as a teacher, to protest her murder?” Pradip Mukherjee, the headmaster of Kamduni Primary School, told Metro.
“On June 13, I had participated in a march organised by villagers along with students from the school. I see no wrong in that,” he added.
Mukherjee was served a notice on June 19 asking him to explain why he violated a state government order barring students, teachers and other school employees from taking part in political rallies during school hours.
The school education department issued a notice on September 15, 2011, imposing the restriction after SUCI had packed students at Sahapur Mathuranath Vidyapeeth in New Alipore into a truck and taken them to a political rally. Departmental proceedings were started against the school authorities but no action was taken. Since then, SUCI and other outfits have made students walk in political rallies during school hours, but the school authorities were not showcaused.
Asked why the department was making an exception in the Kamduni case, Manik Bhattacharya, the administrator of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education, said: “In the other cases, the authorities said the students were taken to the rallies before they reached the school and hence, nothing could be done.”
Mukherjee asserted that the government order was not violated at Kamduni. “The rally was by no means political and it was organised after school hours. Also, the school authorities did not organise it. Villagers, including the parents of the students, organised the protest and I took part in it,” said the headmaster.
He termed the showcause letter “faulty”. “The letter, issued by the North 24-Parganas inspector of schools, says that I walked in the rally on June 12. But the march was on June 13,” he said. “No one visited the village and conducted an inquiry before sending me the showcause notice. I informed the chairman of the district primary school council, Mina Ghosh, about the matter. I am not associated with any political outfit but attempts are being made to brand me that way.”
Mukherjee has responded to the notice. Bhattacharya refused to accept the headmaster’s explanation. “I saw on TV that the school students were in uniform. If the march was indeed held after school hours, why would the students be in uniform? Moreover, it is the headmaster’s responsibility to ensure that students head back home after school rather than participate in a rally,” he said.
Teachers rubbished Bhattacharya’s claim. “A headmaster cannot be held responsible for what students do after school hours,” said a teacher.
Asked how the government bar was violated when the rally was apolitical, Bhattacharya said: “The district primary school council will go through the headmaster’s explanation and decide whether there was a violation of the directive.”