A person lost his life at a school in north Bengal after clashes erupted between police and agitating students over the appointment of teachers on Thursday. The incident took place at Daribhit High School near Islampur under North Dinajpur district. The incident left ten students, policemen and locals injured.
The victim has been identified as Rajesh Sarkar, 19, who died allegedly from bullet injuries. Sarkar was a former student of the school and was presently studying at the local Industrial Training Institute. BJP has called for a 12-hour bandh in the area in protest.
According to police and local sources, a group of students started protesting when three new teachers visited the school. The students had been demanding the appointment of teachers in Literature and Science subjects in Bengali medium. However, the three new teachers who were appointed were Urdu and Sanskrit teachers.
While the teachers tried to enter the school, they were thwarted by the students, who were later joined by former students and locals. The agitating students also blocked the road in front of the school.
Later, a huge contingent of police arrived to control the situation and an altercation ensued as the students refused to back off. The police resorted to lathicharge as the students lobbed bricks and stones at them. The police also lobbed tear gas shells and fired rubber bullets to disperse the agitators.
However, mystery persisted on who opened fire on the protesting students. “We have fired rubber bullets and tear gas shells. We did not fire bullets. Our men were injured and the protesters vandalised police vehicles,” claimed district police superintendent Sumit Kumar. Chairman of Islampur Municipality Kanhaiyalal Agarwal also had no clue how Sarkar died.
“I have spoken to the officer-in-charge of the Islampur police station. He categorically told me that the police did not open fire,” he said. District Magistrate of North Dinajpur Arvind Kumar Mina said he was waiting for the police report. “I have got the news of a death. Police have gone there to take control of the situation. I am yet to get the police report on the reason of the death,” Mina said.
Sarkar was declared brought dead at Islampur sub-divisional hospital, while the injured have been admitted at Islampur Hospital. One person with critical injuries was sent to a hospital in Siliguri.
Goalphokor MLA Md Gulam Rabbani demanded an investigation into the death of Sarkar. “Whatever happened is unwanted. The police should investigate how the student died. Using force on students is unacceptable,” “he said.
District BJP president Sankar Chakraborty, however, alleged it was the police that opened fire. “Police first resorted to caning and then firing tear gas shells. Eventually, they opened fire. It is surprising how could they press the trigger at a school. These kind of incidents used to take place during the British rule,” Chakraborty said.
Leader of the Left parties in the state Assembly Sujan Chakraborty demanded an answer from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over the incident. “It is quite natural that students will hold protests demanding proper education. But it astonishing that the police would open fire in a school. The chief minister, who is also the police minister, should reply why her men have become so trigger happy,” he said.
Meanwhile, the headmaster of the school refused to comment on the incident. “Please contact the administration,” said Abhijit Kundu, headmaster of the co-educational school that was set up in 1969.