40 injured as cops lathi charge at protesting teachers in Tripura

The sacked teachers have been staging a peaceful dharna outside the Agartala City Centre for the past 52 days, demanding to be reinstated and given permanent jobs

Police personnel lathi-charged teachers, and used water cannons to disperse them during their protest, in Agartala, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. (PTI Photo)

Forty protesting teachers were injured and rushed to hospital, after the police reportedly lathi-charged, used water cannon and tear-gas shells on a group of them, who had gathered outside  the Tripura CM Biplab Kumar Deb’s residence today. They were reportedly violating Section 144, which had been imposed in the Agartala Municipal Corporation area since this morning.

The teachers, who were dismissed for irregularities in their appointments, had been staging a peaceful dharna outside the Agartala City Centre for the past 52 days, demanding to be reinstated and given permanent jobs.

Admitting that several teachers including women were injured in the clash, Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Arindam Nath told reporters that Section 144 was imposed in the Agartala Municipal Corporation for 24 hours starting from 6 am today. This was in response to the police anticipating a law and order situation and disruption of essential services today from “social media posts” uploaded by the sacked protesting teachers.

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The genesis of this teacher’s agitation dates back to 2014. According to The Indian Express, nearly 10,323 teachers — including those teaching graduate, undergraduate and postgraduate courses — inducted since 2010 were terminated from service, after the Tripura High Court scrapped their irregular appointments in 2014.

The order was later upheld by the Supreme Court in 2017, in response to Special Leave Petitions filed by the dismissed teachers as well as the state government. Around 8,000 teachers were later inducted on an ad hoc basis by the state government till March 31, this year, after which they have become jobless. The CM had apparently assured the teachers that their problems would be solved in two months.

Soon after, the dismissed teachers had formed three organisations — Justice for 10323, All Tripura Ad Hoc Teachers Association and Amra 10323 – and announced an indefinite mass sit-in-demonstration.

The teachers had been protesting for over 52 days, until the police imposed the prohibitory order triggering a chain of events. Police personnel in combat gear had ostensibly landed at the demonstration venue early this morning and started rounding up the protestors and detained over 300 teachers. Another group had landed outside the CM’s residence to protest against the police action and refused to disperse. This prompted the security personnel to fire water cannons and tear gas shells.

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Dalia Das, a leader of the 10323 JMC body, said, “This is the most shameful and barbaric incident. Teachers’ clothes were torn by the police, food and other donations given to us at our protest venue were looted. The police acted like goons.”

Political leaders, such as veteran CPIM leader Bijan Dhar and state Congress vice-president Tapas Dey too condemned the police action, calling it “barbaric” and “done out of political bankruptcy”. They have demanded immediate release of the detained teachers and their demands to be accepted.

While accusing the erstwhile Left Front government over the faulty recruitment of 10,323 teachers, Dey said BJP had promised them a solution if they were voted to power. “After assuming power, the BJP-led state government betrayed them and are now beating them up on the streets. This is highly condemnable.”

Tripura BJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharjee, however, claimed that a section of sacked teachers was acting at the behest of the opposition. The state government has reportedly already notified jobs for the sacked teachers.