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Alleged Murder In Sabang College Highlights The Decaying State Of West Bengal’s Education

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On August 7, when reports of a student been beaten to death at a college in West Bengal started to emerge, educationists and ordinary citizens of the state shuddered at yet another manifestation of politicization of the education system. In the recent years, most campuses across the state has periodically witnessed such scenes playing out, once too often.

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Krishna Prasad Jana, a BA third year student of Sabang Sajanikanta Mahavidyalaya in West Midnapore district, succumbed to injuries, after being allegedly beaten up by members of Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP). A clash had broken out between members of Chhatra Parishad (CP) – the student wing of Congress- and TMCP, after activists from the latter outfit had reportedly demanded that all students join the reception of West Bengal Water Resources Investigation and Development minister, Soumen Kumar Mahapatra.

Claiming Jana to be one of their members, CP registered a complaint with Sabang Police, alleging that the youth was assaulted with sticks and cricket bats by TMCP cadres, for having refused to felicitate the minister.

Within a matter of hours, West Bengal Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said the youth was not a student of the college and labelled the fracas as the “Chhatra Parishad’s internal feud.” Later, on August 12, when journalists sought answers on the student’s death, the minister insensitively remarked, “as if you live in cloud cuckoo land” and questioned “hasn’t anyone died before?”

Describing the incident as “most unfortunate”, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, said the police have been asked to take “strict action” against the perpetrators. She was, however, characteristically forthwith in dismissing all contentions in favour of the TMCP’s alleged involvement in the entire episode. “The student was killed inside the college union room which was locked. The union is of Chhatra Parishad, and not of TMCP. The incident took place due to a scuffle among the CP students in which Jana got hit,” Banerjee contested.

A state-wide strike was called on Saturday, August 8, by both Chhatra Parishad and the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) to protest against the student’s death.

The cult of hooliganism has been an inextricable element in West Bengal’s campus ecosphere since the preceding reign of the Left regime. The CPI (M) affiliated SFI are infamously known to have orchestrated many an act of violence on educational campuses, during their heyday, as the overlords of most college unions in the state.

In 2011, when Mamata Banerjee came to power after toppling a 34-year old Left rule, she had vowed to sanitize educational institutions of political control and influence. However, the steady proliferation of incidents of bloodshed and anarchy on college and university campuses in the subsequent years have gone on to testify the failure of the TMC-led government to walk the talk.

In February 2013, sub-inspector Tapas Chowdhury was shot dead at Harimohan Ghosh College in Kolkata. An unbridled use of bombs and brickbats by both students and local goons, had erupted following a clash between TMCP and CP over filing of nominations for the students’ union elections.

Furthermore, over the last few years, manhandling teachers and principals of institutions has also become an inextricable part of the political brouhaha on campuses across Bengal. Earlier in July 2015, glaring irreverence towards institutional decorum reached a shocking new low when TMCP activists allegedly heckled a group of teachers and non-teaching staff at the College Street campus of University of Calcutta (CU), while the latter were staging a peaceful sit-in over an issue that didn’t remotely concern students.

The then Vice Chancellor of CU, Professor Suranjan Das, who took over as Jadavpur University V-C a couple of weeks after the incident, was also reported to have been assaulted. Initially having denied the assault, Das later demanded the state government take serious steps to bring the perpetrators to book.

Constituted in 2011, the TMC’S student wing has managed to gain dominance in 458 college unions out of 478 in West Bengal in a fairly short span of four years. The recent escalation in violence in non-TMCP ruled colleges could hint at a camouflaged exercise by the student outfit to wrest control from the opposition in such institutes before the state goes into the 2016 Legislative Assembly elections.

With the BJP-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) also trying to make inroads in Bengal’s virulent campus politics, the autonomy of sanctified values as well as the advocacy of the prime objective of education institutions in Bengal will be put to some serious test.

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Also Read: As Numerous Faculty Exits, Is The Mamata Govt. Taking Over Presidency University?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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