4 HoDs, 3 deans in Bengal varsity resign over alleged casteist slurs
West Bengal’s education minister, Partha Chatterjee, on Tuesday visited Kolkata’s Rabindra Bharati University a day after four departmental heads and three deans resigned in protest against alleged casteist insults hurled at four professors from the scheduled caste (SC) community.
Students and staff owing allegiance to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) unions allegedly hurled the insults that have triggered protests on the campus.
Chatterjee held meetings with faculty members and vice chancellor Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chaudhury, who has ordered an inquiry into the alleged incidents.
The insults were allegedly hurled following an argument some teachers had with a group of students skipping classes. “The guilty will not be spared,” Chatterjee said.
Last month, a geography professor Saraswati Kerketta belonging to the SC community alleged a section of students and staff insulted her by mentioning her background and made her stand for an hour in a classroom despite knowing that she suffers from orthopedic problems. Later, another professor and two others made similar allegations.
The matter came to light on Monday when heads of Bengali, Sanskrit, economics and political sciences departments, Bharati Bandopadhyay, Amal Kumar Mandal, Bindi Shaw, and Bankim Chandra Mondal and deans of three other departments — School of Languages and Culture, Department of Visual Art and B R Ambedkar Study Centre — resigned.
“I met the professors and requested them not to resign. I told them that we cannot let these things happen in an institute named after Tagore. Student-teacher relation should be protected at all cost. I told the teachers and students that they must attend all classes. The inquiry committee has to submit its report fast and it should be made public. I told the students to apologise to the teachers who felt insulted,” Chatterjee said.
One of the teachers, Saraswati Kerketta, from the SC community has stopped coming to the university. “Her phone is switched off. Otherwise, I could have talked to her and connected the call to chief minister Mamata Banerjee,” Chatterjee added.
Joyeeta Roy, another professor who has alleged she was also insulted and harassment, said she is a member of the TMC’s teachers’ union and that even she was not spared. “Casteist slurs have become a regular feature on campus. We will not tolerate this.”
Chaudhury said he has not accepted the resignations. “We have ordered an inquiry to get to the bottom of this.’
Debabrata Das, the secretary of a teachers’ council, said the harassment of teachers has been going on for quite some time. “The torture increased every time we complained to the authorities.”