More than 40 people were reportedly injured as police resorted to lathicharge and used water cannon and tear-gas shells at terminated school teachers sitting on a dharna outside Agartala City Centre for the past 52 days demanding permanent jobs.
According to the police, seven cops were also wounded in the ensuing clash and three public vehicles were damaged by the protesters.
Apparently apprehending a law and order situation, the West Tripura district administration Tuesday imposed section 144 in Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC) area for 24 hours starting 6 am Wednesday. At 5.30 am, police personnel in combat gear were seen yanking protesters sleeping at the sit-in-demonstration venue, saying the area had to be vacated due to prohibitory orders. They reportedly detained over 300 teachers.
Speaking to reporters later today, Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Arindam Nath said a few sacked teachers had warned on social media about “undemocratic” protests on Tuesday, which gave rise to apprehensions of law and order deterioration. “We chose this action as there were apprehensions of a law and order situation and disruption of essential services,” Nath said. He admitted that several teachers including women were injured in the lathi charge.
A vehicle of West Tripura Additional Superintendent of Police Shaswata Kumar and Sadar Sub Divisional Police Officer Chiranjib Chakraborty also came under attack by the agitating teachers.
A total of 10,323 teachers — including those teaching graduate, undergraduate and postgraduate courses — who were inducted since 2010 were terminated from service after the Tripura High Court scrapped their appointments in 2014 due to irregularities in the recruitment process.
The order was later upheld by the Supreme Court in 2017, in response to Special Leave Petitions filed by the sacked teachers as well as the state government. The teachers were later inducted on ad hoc basis by the state government and they continued in the same post till March 2020. While many of these teachers got placed in alternative jobs through interviews in the meantime, over 8,000 were later re-inducted on an ad hoc basis till March 31 this year. They were rendered jobless thereafter. In September last year, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb assured the teachers of looking into their problems in two months’ time.
Two months after the assurance, three organisations of these sacked teachers — Justice for 10323, All Tripura Ad Hoc Teachers Association and Amra 10323 – came together to form a joint movement committee and announced an indefinite mass sit-in-demonstration.
Kamal Deb, an agitating teacher, told the media, “Protesting teachers were forcefully detained from the venue by state police and TSR jawans. They were taken to AD Nagar police grounds, many were taken to RK Nagar TSR battalion grounds. A lot of them complained of lack of sanitation and drinking water facilities on social media. Are we criminals? What’s the government afraid of?”
Protesting the police action, a large section of the teachers headed towards the Chief Minister’s official residence at Shyamaprasad Mookerjee Lane and gathered there, following which police tried to disperse them.
After persuasions failed, the security personnel fired water cannon and tear gas shells and used ‘mild’ lathi charge, leading to injury of 41 teachers, a few of whom were rushed to Govind Ballabh Panth (GBP) Hospital here, according to reports.
Dalia Das, a leader of the 10323 JMC body, condemned police action and said the government has behaved barbarically with teachers. “This is the most shameful and barbaric incident. Teachers’ clothes were torn by the police, food and other donations given to us at our protest venue were looted. The police acted like goons.”
Das also said that several teachers, including women, felt suffocated from tear gas smoke and were beaten by 6-7 policemen. “Our colleague Rinku Sarkar is fighting for her life at GBP Hospital. What sort of government is this?” she asked.
Veteran CPIM leader Bijan Dhar condemned police action and demanded immediate release of the detained teachers and accept all their demands forthwith.
“We condemn the barbaric attack on peaceful demonstration of sacked 10323 teachers and their detention. We demand their immediate release as well as acceptance of their demand of reinstating in government service”, Dhar wrote in his Facebook page.
State Congress vice-president Tapas Dey said the government “behaved barbarically out of political bankruptcy”.
While accusing the erstwhile Left Front government over faulty recruitment of 10323 teachers, Dey said BJP had promised them a solution if they were voted to power. “After assuming power, the BJP-led state government betrayed them and are now beating them up on the streets. This is highly condemnable.”
Tripura BJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharjee, however, claimed that a section of sacked teachers were acting at the behest of opposition CPIM and attacked the police personnel today.
He said the state government has already notified jobs for the sacked teachers but their agitation on the streets is unbecoming of them.