Headmaster of school that hosted Bajrang Dal training camp in West Bengal is now dismissed from school

The headmaster of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)-run school in West Bengal has been forced to resign for protesting the hosting of a Bajrang Dal arms training inside the school premises. Bajrang Dal is the youth wing of the VHP.

Mahimaranjan Mandal, who was headmaster of Hindu Vidyalaya in the Kultali area of South 24 Parganas – about 60 km from Kolkata – had objected to the Ashram Committee’s decision to host Bajrang Dal’s arms training camp in the school premises in December 2017.

“A letter was sent to me a few weeks back dismissing me from the school, but I refused to receive it as there was no letterhead nor any indication that it was an official correspondence,” Mandal said.

He added that when he went back to school on Janmashtami, September 3, after a few days’ leave, he found that another headmaster had been appointed by the school. “I was not allowed to sign in the attendance register, and neither was my salary of the last two months paid to me,” Mandal added. He said that there was tremendous pressure on him from VHP and Bajrang Dal for the past few months asking him to either submit a written statement saying he was not against arms training camps in the school, or to resign.

What led to the alleged threats

In November last year, the school’s management committee was replaced by an Ashram Committee to look after the school, and it was the latter’s decision to host the arms training camp.

While the school was closed when the training camp was held in December last year, Mandal’s consent was not sought in the matter. Moreover, Mandal had objected to the fact that a school was no place to organise an arms training camp. He has been headmaster of the school since 1988.

However, he began to receive death threats on objecting to the decision. This made him lodge two complaints in Kultali police station. In one of the letters, Mandal has stated that members of the Ashram Committee had threatened to kill him.

Since last December, he has continued to receive death threats, Mandal said. He is a resident of Joynagar area of South 24 Parganas district, 45 km from his school in Kultali. “From the time I have objected to the decision of organising the Bajrang Dal training camp, I have not only received death threats, but also humiliation and insult before my colleagues several times,” Mandal told The Bengal Story on Monday. “I felt unsafe travelling between my home and school from the time these threats kept coming.”

The state’s reaction

In April, Mandal had even met the state school education minister Partha Chatterjee and submitted a written complaint.

The school is run by Manav Seva Pratisthan, an organisation affiliated to the VHP. There were 300 students (classes V to IX) and 11 teachers in the school in December 2017, but Mandal said many had left following the arms training being held in the school premises.

“I have met the district police superintendent and the school education minister. I have even written to the chief minister,” he said.

What worries Mandal the most is that there has been nothing to prevent matters coming to such a pass. “Things went from bad to worse. Even now, those who have caused my dismissal and those who threatened me, are roaming free,” he said.

What the VHP says

There was no official reaction from the VHP. Sourish Mukherjee, the media-in-charge of the VHP, refused to comment on the matter. However, sources said that a complaint had been filed against Mandal by a woman teacher before the Ashram Committee and the school authorities have taken action against Mandal on these grounds.

But the former headmaster denies this and says that the school authorities went against him because he refused to allow the arms camp and is now being framed with other charges.

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