Teachers fail to break hostel deadlock

Presidency gates shut till late on Monday

By Subhankar Chowdhury
  • Published 11.09.18
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Physics teachers Suchetana Chatterjee and Ritaban Chatterjee try to reason with the protesting students. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

College Street: Two Presidency University physics teachers tried in vain to reason with some of the students who had locked the gates early on Monday to protest the delay in Eden Hindu Hostel repairs.

The gates remained closed till late at night.

Suchetana Chatterjee and Ritaban Chatterjee were among the teachers who were barred from entering the university apart from vice-chancellor Anuradha Lohia and other officials.

Suchetana Chatterjee tried to tell the agitating students that they were setting a "bad precedent" by stopping teachers and the VC from entering the campus.

She was soon joined by colleague Ritaban Chatterjee. He asked the students seated on top of the gate how they couldn't distinguish between between university officials and teachers.

But their efforts couldn't break the deadlock.

The students made it clear that no one would be allowed on the campus till two blocks of the hostel were handed over to them.

After a while the teachers and others left.

Monday wasn't the first time that Presidency teachers tried to persuade students into withdrawing protests over the delay in hostel repairs.

On August 14 a group of teachers had met the students on the portico. The protests had started on August 1.

Both Suchetana Chatterjee and Ritaban Chatterjee were part of that group.

When Metro asked Ritaban Chatterjee what he tried to convey to the protesting students, he refused to elaborate.

The two teachers tried to reason with the students after VC Lohia left the gates around 10.04am.

She had arrived around 9.43pm to find the gates locked with a banner placed at the bottom saying, "Presi bandho, hostel meramotir kaaj cholchhe (Presidency is shut for hostel renovation)".

Another poster on the gate had "CLOSED" written in red ink.

"I am not going to enter the campus with the help of police. I am not going to force my way in.... They have to open the gates to let us enter. If they don't, we will not enter," VC Lohia said.

Some teachers who had arrived before her told her that they had been stopped from entering the campus.

When the waiting media asked Lohia about the convocation scheduled for Tuesday, she said: "Today the governing meeting was to be held. If they don't allow the meeting, the degrees cannot be ratified. No one can be awarded the degree tomorrow.

"How is this possible? How can some students take control of the campus? This is not right. This is unlawful. This is illegal.

"I have 3,000 students. How many of them are here? Only some. Can they occupy the campus this way?"

She then held a meeting with registrar Debajyoti Konar and controller of examination Nilanjan Dasgupta on the footpath amidst the sloganeering. "Hindu Hostel saraabe na, campus-e dhukte parbe na (No hostel repairs, no entering the campus)," a slogan went.

Rahul Mukerjee, a professor of statistics at IIM Calcutta who is a member of the governing body, stood with Lohia on the footpath.

A father who came to drop her daughter off asked Lohia if she would be safe.

Lohia assured him that his daughter was safe on the campus.

Eden Hindu Hostel, at the heart of the controversy, has been shut since July 29, 2015.

The latest round of protest started after the university authorities failed to meet the July 15 deadline to complete the repairs.

Protesting students have accused VC Lohia of "intentional delay".

Last week, they had warned of "drastic protests" if the authorities did not hand over two blocks of the hostel to them by September 10.

Education minister Partha Chatterjee on Monday night criticised the students for locking the gates.

Speaking about the delay in the renovation he said: "The Presidency University authorities watched what was happening but did not take any action. They need to be more humane. The hostel renovation has to be completed at the earliest."

Minister Chatterjee had pulled up the university authorities last month as well for the delay in the hostel repairs.