Vol. XLI No. 12 March 19, 2017

WEST BENGAL: Militant Struggle by Students-Youth Sends New Message

STUDENTS-youth in West Bengal came into streets and fought a militant battle, creating tales of resistance.  

This wasn’t the first time that organisations like the Students’ Federation of India and the Democratic Youth Federation of India took to the streets demanding that the TET be conducted transparently and that proper investigations be made into the various allegations surrounding the exam. The School Services Commission (SSC) was set up during the Left Front rule in the state and was responsible for conducting the Teachers’ Entrance Test (TET). Prior to 2011, this exam was conducted hassle-free every year. Ever since the TMC government has taken over the state, not once has the exam been conducted without being surrounded by controversy. There have been allegations that those close to the ruling party have gotten appointments even though they did not qualify the test. In 2014, a WBCS officer brought to the fore the corruption associated with the entire process of teacher appointments. In the past six years, papers have been leaked, candidates have paid their way to get an appointment and a hapless youth was forced to end their life succumbing to the pressures of unemployment. This time no list was published, many have been denied employment even after empanelment; many were suspended from job after joining schools.

On March 9, Left student and youth organisations marched to the Raj Bhawan to submit a deputation to the governor, demanding that the TET be conducted transparently and that official enquiries be made into the allegations of malpractice surrounding the SSC and the TET. This was a peaceful rally, with numerous youth and students participating. The rally began from College Square and culminated at Esplanade. There was no attempt on behalf of the students-youth to break law. Even then the police started mercilessly beating up the young comrades present there. Over 15 comrades sustained heavy injuries and had to be rushed to various hospitals all over the city. The police did not merely stop at that, they arrested 111 student and youth comrades and took them away to Lal Bazar police station. They were kept in the lock up here, overnight.

Next afternoon when all the comrades were produced at Bankshal Court, randomly eight comrades (both student and youth activists) were charged with non-bailable offences and were taken into custody till March 13, 2017. The comrades who were taken into custody included, DYFI state president Sayandeep Mitra, DYFI leader Indrajit Ghosh, SFI state president  Madhuja Sen Roy among others. Four girl students were among those eight. They were charged with newly passed draconian Maintenance of Public Property Act.

Following the indiscriminate attack by the police on the peaceful gathering on March 9 and the arrest of over 100 comrades, protests broke out all over the state calling out the injudicious role of the state police in dealing with the protesting comrades. Further, when the rest of the comrades were released on March 10, while eight were wrongfully detained, impromptu protest demonstrations were organised by the SFI and DYFI all over the state. Most prominently the Gariahat crossing and Shyam bazar Crossing came to a standstill on a busy Friday evening with comrades shouting slogans. Over the next three days, student and youth activists in all districts of the state took to the streets and raised slogans in support of their comrades in jail. Rallies, protest demonstrations and postering across college and university campuses was taken up by the activists.

The eight comrades in custody, were produced in court on March 14. Thousands of students and youth marched towards the court from Esplanade. The rally reverberated slogans like “With Love, Inqilab”, “We are not only eight” and protest songs. Massive gathering practically seized the downtown Kolkata till the hearing was completed.  As far as one could see there was a sea of heads. Finally, the eight comrades were granted bail and released. The Bankshal Court premise was engulfed in a cloud of red and reverberating call of 'Lal salaam Comrade'. The released leaders addressed the gathering and vowed to continue struggle against the authoritarian regime.