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Now, Mamata government targets woman professor?

By Sirshendu Panth, IANS,

Kolkata : A woman professor who dared to take on a Trinamool Congress leader for allegedly throwing a jug at her inside the teachers’ staff room now finds her dispute with a tenant being made public by the West Bengal government – in what is being seen as a bid to show her in poor light.

Holding a media conference alongside the tenant at the Writers’ Buildings – the seat of power in the state – senior minister Subrata Mukherjee said Friday it was being done to show to the world outside “what kind of a woman” professor Debjani Dey is.

Mukherjee alleged that Dey had been mentally torturing and issuing threats to evict tenant Debasish Ghosh for one year. Dey teaches geography at Bhangar College in South 24 Parganas district.

“This woman has made allegations against (Trinamool leader) Arabul Islam, the Trinamool and even (Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee. The issue is on everybody’s lips. The woman is making these allegations, lifting fingers… Everyone should know what kind of a woman she is,” said Mukherjee.

The Mamata Banerjee government’s strong retaliation – which left people surprised – came three days after Dey made a complaint to the West Bengal College and University Teachers’ Association (WBCUTA) that college governing body president and former Trinamool lawmaker Arabul had flung a water-filled jug at her following an altercation over teachers’ association elections.

Alleging that Arabul had barged into the staff room with some outsiders, abused her and then thrown the jug, Dey claimed she sustained a chin injury.

Arabul, however, denied the allegations and called Dey a hardcore Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) activist.

“This lady spoke to me at a high decibel level by pointing her finger at me. I only told her that she had no right to behave like this with the college governing body head. I also told her to lower her voice. That’s all. But she has now made these false allegations,” Arabul said raising a finger at the television camera.

Accusing a section of the CPI-M of framing the incident to harm the college, he said a section of professors was hand-in-glove with the opposition party.

The matter became a national issue as both the print and electronic media picked it up, while educationists and other eminent people sided with the teacher describing the incident as an attack on education.

Dey initially did not dare to file a police complaint, but limited herself to lodging a complaint with the WBCUTA.

Trinamool Congress workers laid seige on the college, trying to prevent teachers from entering the campus, shouting slogans allegedly threatening them with dire consequences, and then taking out a procession led by the party’s student wing chief Shanku Deb Panda.

But days later, as more and more people empathised with her, she and a few of her colleagues met the Calcutta University vice chancellor Suranjan Das and Governor M.K. Narayanan. Finally, on Friday she mustered the courage to file a police complaint against Arabul.

The scene, however, shifted to the secretariat the same day, as Mukherjee introduced Ghosh and narrated his version of how he was harassed by the professor.

“He has complained to police eight times and also filed court cases. But police have not done anything. The reasons are political,” he said, hinting at Dey’s CPI-M connection.

When a reporter pointed out that it was the Trinamool which has been in power for nearly a year, Mukherjee said: “The chief minister will surely look into it.”

Ghosh said he had visited the chief minister’s office and later had an audience with her. “I was asked to narrate my plight before the press. I think Arabul is right. She often points fingers at me.”

Mukherjee, the state panchayat minister, said he was prepared to bow before professors, but “my body language will change if he/she is a CPI-M person”.

Supporting Arabul’s claim that he had not flung a jug at her, the minister said, “Why didn’t she go to police or get a medical report? And if a professor does politics in college, there will be protest.”

Mukherjee also gave a subtle warning to the woman’s husband, who is a West Bengal Civil Service officer. When journalists wanted to know which department he was attached to, the minister replied: “Ask where he will be.”

All this left Dey aghast. “Why are they dragging a private matter into this episode? How is it related? Just because I protested, my personal life and my husband’s professional life is being dragged into it.”