Placards, slippers and newspapers headlining the 84-hour-long sit-in by teaching jobseekers lay scattered at Karunamoyee area near Kolkata on Friday morning, hours after the police removed them from there.
Around 500 protesters, who claimed to have qualified for the 2014 Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) but were still omitted from the merit list, were on a dharna on a road near the head office of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education in Salt Lake in North 24 Parganas district.
The police dispersed them on the intervening night of Thursday and Friday, saying they are violating the ban on large gatherings imposed there. Videos showed them being dragged away and bundled into buses.
#WATCH | West Bengal: Police personnel drag Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) qualified candidates who’re protesting near the head office of West Bengal Board of Primary Education in Kolkata regarding job recruitment. Section 144 of CrPC imposed in the area pic.twitter.com/Begne3eODc
— ANI (@ANI) October 21, 2022
The protesters, including women, were shouting slogans and speaking to the media on Thursday night, as the authorities were mobilising resources. A strong police contingent led by senior officers then took them in vehicles and dropped them at places in other parts of Kolkata, far away from the protest site.
Around 20 of the protesters, who sat on one flank of the road leading to the information technology hub Sector 5 area from October 17, were on fast from the next day and five of them were shifted to hospital after they fell ill on Thursday.
In the morning, however, some passers-by were seen looking at the spot covered with torn newspapers, discarded slippers of the protesters, some placards that had slogans like “Do or die” and plastic sheets on which they were sitting.
Police personnel present at the spot were seen asking people on foot and cars not to stop there and move on.
Three of the protesters – Achinta Samanta, Achinta Dhara and Arnab Ghosh – were detained by the police and were later released, a Bidhannagar Police Commissionerate official said.
CPI(M) students wing SFI held protests in Karunamoyee area on Friday morning in protest against last night’s incident before five of them were detained, a police official said.
Criticising the police action, acclaimed film director Aparna Sen accused the Trinamool Congress government of violating the democratic rights of the people.
“The Trinamool government is flouting the basic democratic rights of the hunger strikers; Section 144 issued against a non-violent protest. Why? I strongly condemn the undemocratic and unethical action of the West Bengal govt,” she tweeted.
Ms Sen also wondered why gatherings were banned in the area when the protesters did not resort to violence and were sitting peacefully.
Leader of Opposition, Suvendu Adhikari of the BJP, tweeted: “West Bengal’s current situation is alarming. Police applying brute force on agitating candidates of TET 2014 at Salt Lake to forcefully end their legitimate sit-in demonstration near the state Primary Education board office.” He shared several videos of police personnel lifting protesters from the spot.
Countering the barrage of criticism, Trinamool Congress state spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said the police are not interfering in the sit-in as the TMC-run government does not believe in crushing democratic protests.
“However, so far as the Karunamoyee incident is concerned, the protesters violated prohibitory orders and sat on a road before the board office. Police had to lift them as the movement was disrupting normal life,” he said.