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In Mamata's Bengal, teachers rendered 'punching bags'

In Mamata Banerjee's West Bengal, teachers are steadily turning out to be 'punching bags', with many calling the frequent attacks on them a reflection of the growing lawlessness in the state.

Kolkata: In Mamata Banerjee's West Bengal, teachers are steadily turning out to be 'punching bags', with many calling the frequent attacks on them a reflection of the growing lawlessness in the state.

From primary schools to prestigious colleges and universities, assaults on the educators have been reported from a number of districts with the attackers, in most of the cases, allegedly belonging to the ruling Trinamool Congress.

While campus violence is nothing new in West Bengal, the growing trend of attacks on the teachers, has educationists and politicians raising alarm.

"Not a day passes without a teacher being assaulted somewhere. What can be more unfortunate than seeing teachers become nothing but punching bags? Whoever wants can punch and slap them," noted educationist Sunanda Sanyal told IANS.

"Education in Bengal is headed towards the dumps and these attacks are a reflection of the gift that the Trinamool has showered on all of us - anarchy," said the octogenarian who had for years backed Banerjee during her fight against the then ruling Left Front.

Sanyal, who earlier headed the Syllabus Committee and the Higher Education Committee formed by Banerjee, attributed the Trinamool's endeavour to establish partycracy behind the state's "pathetic educational environment" in the state.

Even as Trinamool supremo Banerjee asked her party's students' wing - the Trinamool Congress Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) supporters not to tarnish the party's image by attacking teachers, the assaults have continued unabated.

Only a day after Banerjee expressed her displeasure at a recent public meet, a teacher was roughed up at Asansol in Burdwan district, allegedly by Trinamool supporters, on the pretext that he was irregular in taking classes.

In yet another incident, a secondary school principal was roughed up by students protesting against the discontinuation of mid-day meals in Murshidabad district.

The opposition Left Front squarely blamed Banerjee for the attacks.

"Even after her public reprimand, a host of teachers were assaulted and slapped. This means despite what she may be saying in public, she instructs her partymen to carry out just the opposite," Front chairman Biman Bose said.

Earlier in the month, there was widespread condemnation after former Calcutta University Vice Chancellor (VC) Suranjan Das, along with a section of teaching and non-teaching staff, were assaulted by TMCP supporters.

Das, who now has taken over as the Jadavpur University VC, initially denied the assault. Facing criticism, he subsequently demanded the state government act against the perpetrators.

While their frequency has increased recently, the attacks on academics and academic institutions have been occurring from the outset of the Trinamool regime.

In January 2012, the principal of Raiganj College in North Dinajpur district was beaten up and his office ransacked.

In April 2012, a female college teacher in South 24 Parganas district was injured after former Trinamool MLA Arabul Islam - now expelled from the party - flung a jug full of water at her.

In 2013, Trinamool supporters assaulted the principal and two teachers of Meghnad Saha College in North Dinajpur district after they caught a local leader's wife cheating in the examination.

Miscreants, said to be Trinamool supporters, in April 2013 vandalised the historic Baker Laboratory at Presidency University in Kolkata to 'avenge' the attack on state Finance Minister Amit Mitra in New Delhi, allegedly by activists of the Students' Federation of India.

Incidentally, the state government has not only dubbed the recent attacks a 'petty' issue, but also admonished the media for highlighting them.

"Why are you focussing on these small matters? If you highlight better things, such incidents will themselves lessen. Harping on bad things will only lead to increase in such tendencies," Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said.

His comments though, have not amused many.

"Such comments are expected from Trinamool leaders. It surely is a petty matter for them as they want the scene to get bloodier. The Trinamool is desperate to create an all pervasive hegemony and establish partycracy, all this anarchy is a result of that," educationist Pabitra Sarkar told IANS.

In February, a college teacher in West Midnapore district was roughed up after he alleged strong-arm tactics by the TMCP to win the college elections.

Amit Roy, who teaches economics at the Rabindra Shatabarshiki Mahavidyalaya in Ghatal, had named TMCP activists for the attack.

Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra, who was assaulted and jailed in 2012 for circulating emails mocking the chief minister, said attacking democracy was the agenda of Trinamool.

"The Trinamool's only agenda is to attack democracy and rob the people's human rights. When the police are not being spared, one can only imagine the condition of the teachers and educators under the current regime," Mahapatra told IANS referring to a spate of assaults on policemen.