Report bares rally truths

16 Sep

The findings of the government inquiry into students of a New Alipore school being forced to become rally cattle a week ago confirm how lack of intervention by educational institutions allows exploitative organisations to herd children away to such events.

The report, submitted to Calcutta High Court on Thursday, also matches most of what The Telegraphhad been reporting since last Friday.

Metro compiles a point-by-point comparison.

The probe report

About 35 students were hauled to attend the procession on September 8, 2011, conducted by the All India DSO at College Square from noon.

Most of the guardians and students (who were taken away) were unaware of the programme by the All India DSO.

The Telegraph on September 9

At least 45 children from Sahapur Mathuranath Vidyapeeth, some of them barely 10 years old, were herded into a Matador van and sent to central Calcutta on September 8 without their parents’ consent to make up the numbers at a rally organised by the All India Democratic Students’ Organisation. Many parents panicked on not finding their children in school as rumours swirled about them being kidnapped.

The probe report

About five to 10 students were picked up from the school compound, the rest were stopped on their way to school between 10.45 and 11am.

Those who came to pick the students claimed they had obtained the headmaster’s permission to take them for the procession. They said the participating students would be marked present in school for the day.

Some students were lured with the promise of a trip to Alipore zoo and other attractions of Calcutta. They were also promised food packets.

The Telegraph on September 10

Two of the children taken to the rally, one of them a high school student who had resisted being dragged out of class to attend the event and a younger boy who was told he would be taken to a cricket match, narrate their experience.

The older boy, Rajat (name changed): “I had barely taken my seat in the classroom on the second floor when two young men came in. One of them asked why we were still in the classroom when there was a students’ rally at Esplanade. The other youth grabbed me by an arm and ordered that all of us should get up to leave, lest we be late for the event. I protested, saying we should wait till our teachers arrived so that we wouldn’t be accused of bunking class. The two youths were furious. ‘Don’t you feel the need for permission when you bunk school to watch a film or gossip by the lake? Come with us silently,’ one of them shot back.”

The younger student, Shankha (name changed): “I was walking towards school along with a friend when I spotted some of our classmates getting into a Matador. I asked them where they were going and the reply came from a stranger standing beside the vehicle. He said classes wouldn’t be held on Thursday and that all students were free to participate in a game of cricket being organised at a nearby ground. He invited me and my friend to join the group, saying food would be served as well. We fell for the bait.”

The probe report

The school did not enquire why the schoolbags of some students were in their classrooms, but they were absent.

The people who picked up the students had campaigned in front of the school gate about the scheduled demonstration for several days before the event…. Some students had also asked their teachers about the procession. But the school authorities did not take effective steps to stop what happened.

The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education may be requested to instruct the school’s managing committee to take disciplinary steps against the headmaster for sheer negligence of duty.

The Telegraph on September 9

Headmaster M.M. Mansoor could not explain how people who had nothing to do with the school could enter classrooms and take children away. “It happened between the closing time of the primary section and the start of the senior school. So, the school cannot be held responsible,” he told The Telegraph.

The probe report

The students who joined the procession were given bus fares to return home.

The Telegraph on September 9 and 10

After the guardians lodged a kidnap complaint with Behala police station, the organisers hurriedly put the boys in three small vans, which dropped them at Sealdah station, outside Alipore zoo and at Majherhat.

“We approached one of the rally organisers for permission to leave, only to be shooed away. A colleague of his was, however, helpful. He said a car would drop us till Sealdah station. One of the Class XI students knew the route back home from Sealdah; so we agreed. We boarded a train to New Alipore station. I travelled without a ticket as I didn’t have money to buy one,” recounted schoolboy Rajat.

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