Sinthee: An assistant professor of Rabindra Bharati University was allegedly subjected to "casteist taunts" and shamed for her skin colour and gender by some Trinamul students' union members for refusing to increase their marks in the postgraduate examination.
The geography teacher, who belongs to the Scheduled Tribe (ST), had lodged a complaint with the authorities three days after she was allegedly subjected to the ha- rassment on May 23. A special fact-finding committee was set up by vice-chancellor Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhuri to probe the allegation, but it took 22 days to hold its first meeting on Monday.
Since nothing had emerged from the meeting regarding taking action against the accused students, the heads of four departments and the directors of three schools of advanced studies of the university had resigned from their posts on Monday to express their solidarity with the complainant.
Education minister Partha Chatterjee visited the BT Road campus on Tuesday afternoon to find out the details of the incident. He warned the students that the state government was strongly against "casteism" and stern action would be taken against them if the allegations were found to be true.
Chatterjee asked the vicechancellor to ensure that the probe ended at the earliest and prompt action taken against those found guilty. He also requested the teachers to withdraw their resignation.
The teacher had said in her complaint to the authorities that a group of postgraduate students of her department had approached her on May 20 saying they had performed poorly in the examinations and their marks should be increased.
She had advised them to follow the university rule and apply for reviewing their papers and she would ensure that their papers were rechecked properly.
But the students had insisted that the marks would have to be increased without the review. When she refused, an exchange of words followed and the students dispersed after some time.
However, after 15 minutes, another group of students, mainly union leaders, appeared and shouted at her.
It was at this time that they abused her for her caste, colour and gender. "The accusations went on for three hours and the students made her stand all along and they even didn't allow her to make any phone call," said a teacher.
She was rescued after the intervention of the security officer, but the students followed her even when she headed for her home, which had left her traumatised. She did not come to the university for the next two days, but returned on May 23 to submit her complaint.
She is yet to recover from the trauma and has gone on leave again from Monday. She couldn't be contacted as her phone was switched off.
"We will not tolerate such treatment to teachers by any student. The guilty students will be punished no matter which group they belong to," said Chatterjee.
"I have informed chief minister Mamata Banerjee about this incident and she has asked me to keep her informed about the probe.... I have requested the teachers to withdraw their resignations and resume work," Chatterjee added.
Vice-chancellor Basu Ray Chaudhuri said the special committee had been formed to probe the allegation because the teacher had mentioned that she was subjected to harassment for her caste, skin colour and gender.
Debabrata Das, the secretary of the varsity teachers' council, spoke on behalf of the victim teacher. He said the vice-chancellor had been informed about how teachers, in most cases the five SC, ST and Dalit teachers, were frequent- ly subjected to harassment and the trend was rising among students. But no action had been taken to stop it.
The vice-chancellor said the seven teachers, who had resigned, have given a verbal assurance to him after the minister's visit to the campus that they would withdraw their resignation.
A teachers' meeting has been convened on Wednesday where their grievances will be discussed. Student union leader Biswajit Dey said that the allegations were "baseless" and they hoped the inquiry would reveal the truth..