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Students lock up cops in school

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Midnapore
  • Published 11.07.09
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Midnapore, July 10: Students of a high school 15km from Lalgarh today marched to their institution and locked its gates demanding that policemen camping there vacate the premises and let classes resume.

Over a dozen high schools in and around Lalgarh are shut now because they are being used to house security forces.

At Binpur High School, where classes have not been held since June 15, 250 students came in a procession and asked the 50 personnel living inside to clear out immediately. Then they locked the cops in.

At 12.30pm, the inspector in charge of Binpur came with a large team of baton-wielding personnel and chased the children away. The force broke the lock on the school gate.

“We have repeatedly asked the administration to shift the camp but nothing has happened. That is why we decided to demonstrate today but the police hit us with sticks,” said Dayal Sinha, who is in Class XI.

A farmer whose son is in Class VIII threatened a police boycott if they did not relent.

Ironically, it is a boycott that brought such a large number of security personnel here. The tribals of Lalgarh had been boycotting the administration to protest alleged police atrocities. Maoist guerrillas made use of it and turned the area into their stronghold until the forces marched in.

“If necessary, we will go for a police boycott,” said Amitava Bera, 48.

In Calcutta, home secretary Ardhendu Sen held out hope. “We will vacate the schools in 15 days and shift the forces to new camps.”

A retired police officer said occupying schools for an “indefinite period” was not a right “tactical” decision. “When a large contingent is invol-ved in area domination, they should be provided with good accommodation. Government buildings such as schools are ideal, but only if the forces are going to be stationed there for a short time,” said S.N. Sarkar.

West Midnapore police chief Manoj Verma said over 15 permanent camps were being constructed in the area. “We are trying to build them fast.”

Even before the forces move out for good, attempts are being made to resume the higher classes. Jhargram subdivisional officer P. Ulganathan said: “We have requested the district police chief to vacate a few classrooms so Classes VIII to XII can be held.”

District inspector of schools Santosh Patra said about 20,000 students were missing their classes. “The school education department told us to find rooms in the nearest primary schools and hold classes there. But it is not feasible. First, primary schools have few rooms. Second, all the affected high schools don’t have primary schools nearby.”

The higher secondary council said it was exploring ways to make up on lost time. “We may ask the schools to hold full classes on Saturdays and beyond normal hours. The Puja vacation may have to be curtailed,” said council secretary Swapan Sarkar.