Bengal ragging: Principal gets bail, Christian schools to shut Sep 19

Kolkata, Sep 16 : Christian schools across West Bengal will observe a shutdown Sep 19 in protest against "police inaction" and vandalism of a school following a minor girl student's death allegedly due to ragging while the institution's principal was Monday granted bail.

Helen Sarkar, the principal of the Christ Church School in Dum Dum of North 24-Parganas district, was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs.5,000, her counsel said.

The Calcutta Diocese of the Church of North India, which runs the school, announced at a media meet that over 1,000 Christian-run schools will observe Sep 19 as a "black day" and remain shut, decrying the police "inaction" during the vandalism perpetrated by guardians and locals Sep 12.

"Schools will remain shut to protest against total police inaction to control the mob, to condemn the rampant vandalism and hooliganism in a girls' school for hours on end causing trauma to the head mistress and so many lady teachers," said Archbishop of Calcutta Thomas D'Souza.

The schools observing the shutdown would include around 700 institutions under the West Bengal Association of Christian Schools (WBACS) and the Association of Anglo-Indian schools and about 300 affiliated to the Indian Council for Secondary Education (ICSE).

D'Souza, also WBACS president, would submit a memorandum to Governor M.K. Narayanan and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seeking protection of minority educational institutions.

Condoling the death of 10-year-old Oindrila Das, D'Souza demanded the identification and immediate arrest of those responsible for "the criminal act of sabotage, destruction of school property, including valuable documents and the trauma caused to all".

The diocese, which has constituted a panel to probe the matter, will decide on Sarkar's reinstatement as the principal only after the committee report.

Over a dozen people have been arrested so far for the vandalism, which has evoked criticism from political parties as well as the governor.

Following Oindrila's death, state Education Minister Bratya Basu ordered a probe. However, the students accused of having locked the deceased girl are yet to be identified.

The chief minister, who earlier called up the bereaved family promising action, later dialled D'Souza assuring all possible help.

The issue has assumed political colour after the ruling Trinamool Congress and the opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) traded charges, blaming each other for the vandalism.

Students and a section of parents and guardians expressed happiness at Sarkar getting bail and hoped the school - closed indefinitely since the vandalism - will reopen soon.

Sarkar was arrested Sep 12 night and subsequently remanded in police custody for three days following protests by parents and outsiders who blamed her for the death of Oindrila.

The Class 5 student died Sep 11, a week after she was allegedly locked up inside the school toilet by some of her seniors who demanded money from her.

The protestors Sep 12, vandalised the school and forced Sarkar to publicly apologise for Oindrila's death, as well as step down from the principal's chair.

--IANS (Posted on 16-09-2013)

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