Ragging death: Principal accuses mob, police of collusion
The principal of a school in West Bengal where a minor girl student died after being allegedly ragged by her seniors said Wednesday that she was forced to resign by the police "under instructions from the mob".
Oindrila Das, a Class 5 student at the Christ Church School at Dum Dum in North 24-Parganas district, 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 as part of ragging.
A day after her death, hundreds of people - mostly parents and guardians - ransacked the 131-year-old school, forced the principal and other teachers inside a dark room, and eventually forced principal Helen Sircar to resign. Hours later, she was arrested.
Sircar Wednesday virtually accused the police and the mob of colluding during the rampant vandalism Sep 12 following the girl's death.
"I wasn't arrested on my own like that. I was forced to court arrest by police and the mob," Sircar told mediapersons here.
"Given the circumstances, considering the safety of my teaching and non-teaching staff I gave in. I didn't resign voluntarily. The police under instructions from the mob forced me to resign. My staff's safety was at stake... they were insecure. So considering all these factors I gave in," Sircar said.
A court has granted bail to the principal, who was booked under several non-bailable charges following a police complaint by the girl's family.
Sircar criticised police for inaction and said officers were present during the entire ransacking episode.
"We had called them to offer protection to us but they came after quite a while. They were present during the entire time the vandalism was going on. They acted according to what the mob told them to do. I don't want to recall the incident. Every moment was traumatic," said Sircar.
Over a dozen people have been arrested so far for the vandalism, which has evoked criticism from political parties and Governor M.K. Narayanan.
Two of the arrested were released on bail Tuesday.
Ruling out suicide in case of Oindrila's death, Sircar said the alleged ragging "has not been proved".
"She didn't commit suicide. Till now, nothing has been proved that such an incident (ragging) happened," she said.
On her reinstatement as the school's head, she said: "I think my students and guardians have said it. They have vocally said it. That is the proof of my innocence."
Students of higher classes have been vocal about their wish to have her back as the principal.
"The students are not party to this (vandalism). The vandals who have done it are not part of my school. So what does it have to do with my teaching?" said Sircar.
Sircar condoled Oindrila's demise and said she would visit her bereaved parents "when the time is right".
"I will go when the time is right. I was supposed to go Sep 12 but because of the rampage I couldn't. Very unfortunate what has happened. But what happened in the aftermath (the vandalism) was also very unfortunate."
"It is very unfortunate for any educational institution to face such a thing. We are beside the parents through thick and thin," said Sircar.
Asked about moving the West Bengal Human Rights Commission, she said: "I can't say anything. The matter is sub-judice."
The Calcutta Diocese of the Church of North India, which runs the school, has announced that over 1,000 Christian-run schools will observe Sep 19 as a "black day" and remain shut.
The West Bengal Association of Christian Schools has set up an independent inquiry committee to look into all the allegations and find out the truth.
The probe will also decide when the school would reopen and whether Sircar would be reinstated as principal.
"It is a bad situation right now. The governing body and managing body will decide when to reopen the school. Investigation is going on," Sircar added.
(Posted on 18-09-2013)