Agartala, (Asian independent) At least 87 teachers and 17 police personnel were injured in a pitched battle on Wednesday with the security forces knocking down the tents in which thousands of Tripura government school teachers, who had lost their jobs following the court’s verdict, have been holding sit-in protest for the past 52 days demanding restoration of their jobs.
Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Arindam Nath told IANS that 223 agitating teachers were arrested as they assembled near the official residence of Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb.
West Tripura District Magistrate and Collector Shailesh Kumar Yadav, before the gathering of the teachers near the CM’s residence, had promulgated prohibitory orders 144 Cr Pc in the entire Agartala Municipal Corporation areas banning assembly of five or more people.
“In all 87 teachers and 17 police personnel were injured in today’s (Wednesday) incidents (police lathicharge, use of water cannon and burst of tear gas shells). The agitating teachers also damaged four police cars. Considering the situation, the prohibitory orders were extended for another 48 hours,” Yadav told the media.
Police spokesman Subrata Chakraborty said that two cases were registered against the agitating teachers.
The injured teachers, including many women, were admitted in the Agartala Medical College and Hospital and Indira Gandhi Memorial hospital here.
Opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist, Congress and other political parties condemning Wednesday’s incident said that “indiscriminate police action and lathicharge were barbaric”.
Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said that the teachers’ agitations were backed by the CPI-M and politically motivated.
“The teachers had lost their jobs following the courts’ verdict. The BJP government has been making alternative arrangements for them. Only few hundred teachers with political purpose are organising agitations,” BJP spokesman Nabendu Bhattacharjee told the media.
Referring Wednesday’s police action, CPI-M state secretary Gautam Das said that Tripura never witnessed such police barbarism.
“An unprecedented number of security personnel were deployed to deal with the hapless teachers. Police used lathi, water cannon and burst tear gas shells to disperse the teachers’ gatherings.
“Ten policemen collectively seen used their batons on a teacher. Women teachers were also not spared by the man policemen,” Das, also the party’s central committee member, told the media.
Braving the cold weather, men and women teachers continued their indefinite sit-in in Agartala since beginning the protest on December 7 last year, demanding their reinstatement.
The agitating teachers from undergraduate to postgraduate level have rejected the BJP-led government’s appeal to apply afresh for the vacant posts in different departments for which separate notifications were issued at the end of last year.
Dalia Das, joint convener of the Joint Movement Committee (JMC), which is spearheading the stir since last year, said that of the 10,323 retrenched government teachers, 84 persons died due to various reasons, including three persons who committed suicide.
“Many out of the 10,323 teachers after losing their jobs fell sick due to depression and economic paucity and 84 of them died. The family members of all the retrenched teachers are in great distress, especially of those who have died,” she said.
Small kids, children and family elders of the agitating teachers occasionally take part in the round the clock sit-in.
Both Chief Minister and Education and Law Minister Ratan Lal Nath have on a number of occasions requested the agitating teachers to compete for around 9,000 vacant posts in various departments, including the Education Department, for which the state government issued recruitment notifications.
Nath repeatedly accused the previous Left Front government for the teachers’ plight and told the media that the government cannot provide jobs to any one without following the stipulated formalities, including conducting interviews.
“The Supreme Court had relaxed the stipulated age limit for government jobs for these teachers – they should avail the scope,” he said.
After visiting the hospital, where the injured teachers are being treated, former Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who is now the opposition leader, told the media that after the Tripura High Court and the Supreme Court had terminated the jobs of 10,323 government teachers in 2011, 2014 and 2017, the then Left Front government had created 13,000 posts to accommodate these teachers alternatively.
He said the BJP leaders before the 2018 Assembly polls had promised to regularise their jobs if they came to power, but nothing has been done by them for these teachers.
Sarkar, who’s also a politburo member of the CPI-M, recently led separate delegations of Left MLAs to Governor Ramesh Bais and the Chief Minister and requested them to take suitable steps for the teachers’ reinstatement.
On the government’s offer of jobs, JMC leader Das said the teachers have already completed their government service for seven to 10 years and several of them crossed their stipulated age limit and the state government’s offer is “unreasonable” and against the interest of the teachers.
She said the protesters had suspended their agitation earlier after the Chief Minister on October 3 last year assured to take steps to resolve their problems permanently within two months.
“Today (Wednesday) we have planned to meet the Chief Minister at the civil secretariat. Before that we had taken one of our injured woman teachers to the hospital and at that time police suddenly started lathi charging on teachers,” Das told the media.
“After waiting for more than two months, we resumed our sit-in stir on December 7 but the state government is yet to take any step. We would soon intensify our agitation,” Das said.
The state government had earlier given a lump-sum financial aid of Rs 35,000 each to 8,882 government school teachers, who lost their jobs on March 31 last year, as the courts in their verdicts had cited “discrepancies in recruitments”.
Of the 10,323 former government teachers, 1,357 people got alternative jobs and availed different income avenues while 84 teachers died with three of them committing suicide.