KOLKATA: A week after processions and protests were prohibited in and around College Square, educational institutions in the vicinity reopened after summer vacation to an unfamiliar scene: no blaring loudspeaker, no traffic-choking rallies and no intimidating cops waving aggressively to stay out of the processions’ routes.
“It’s a huge relief,” said a professor at Presidency University, pleasantly surprised that peace had replaced the perpetual commotion on College Street. “It was becoming impossible to travel to the university and teach amid the din. Today, I could drive my vehicle all the way to the campus, without getting stuck anywhere.”
CM Mamata Banerjee in an administrative meeting in Hooghly two weeks ago announced her government’s plan to bar political rallies at College Square. Accordingly, the administration prohibited all processions in the area and even declared the College Street area a silent zone. A PIL was filed in Calcutta high court on Monday, challenging the banning of rallies and meetings in and around College Square.
More than 25 educational institutes -schools, colleges and a university-are located within 1km radius of College Square. A rally a day, sometimes two or three, meant vehicles on the stretch and to the entire central business district would come to a grinding halt and the ensuing racket would make it impossible for students to study. “Political leaders would start talking into microphones right from 10am to enthuse their activists. Sometimes, protesters would come to blows with cops, leading to unrest. All this would impact the students negatively,” said a teacher at Hindu School, happy with the current peace.
Relief was writ large on the face of a teacher at Calcutta Girls’ High School off Lenin Sarani, who pointed out that the rallies, which meandered through Lenin Sarani or S N Banerjee Road, choked traffic and inconvenienced kids and teachers alike. Vice-principal of another school said, “The rallies would start from College Square between noon and 3pm, the time most schools give over. Pooled cars ferrying children heading towards north would get stuck for hours,” the vice-principal said.
Cops, who escorted the processions, heaved a sigh of relief. “Managing processions had become our main responsibility. Our main duty, which is maintaining law and order and patrolling roads, had to take a backseat,” said an officer at the Jorasanko police station.