In the ongoing row over the bribe-for-jobs scam in West Bengal, a new video that surfaced on social media on Friday showed police personnel dragging aspiring schoolteachers by their clothes as they protested near the head office of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education in Kolkata’s Karunamoyee.

The nearly one-minute video shared by news agency ANI showed candidates who qualified the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) clashing with Kolkata Police personnel as they protested on the street. One of the protestors could be seen with his t-shirt torn, while another was dragged away by his legs.

Over a hundred protestors, mostly women, were removed from the agitating spot in a midnight crackdown on Thursday on the orders of the Calcutta high court. The board filed a petition, saying the agitators blocked the way to its office. Following this, the court ordered the immediate imposition of the Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc).

However, soon after being removed, a section of the agitators began a fresh stir on the same spot around 1.30am.

The protest commenced on Monday after hundreds of TET qualified candidates launched an 84-hour sit in. They demanded immediate job applications, having cleared the entrance test in 2014 and also asserted that they would not write a fresh examination. They said they had appeared for two job interviews after clearing the TET eight years before but were yet to get any confirmation from the panel, which, as per the board, has expired.

The agitators had initially blocked the road at the Karunamoyee crossing in Salt Lake area – a busy stretch, during the day and later moved to the primary education board office, which is nearby.

Nearly 20 of the protestors were on a fast and five of them were shifted to a hospital after falling ill on Thursday. Also, three agitators – Achinta Dhara, Arnab Ghosh and Achinta Samanta, were detained by police and later released on PR bond, a Bidhannagar Police Commissionerate official told news agency PTI.

Following the midnight operation on Thursday, placards, slippers and newspaper pages carrying news of the 84-hour sit were found scattered at the Karunamoyee stretch earlier this morning. Some passerby stopped to peek a glance, even as Kolkata police personnel present at the spot were seen asking people on foot and cars not to stop there and move on.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the opposition camp have criticised the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) regime for the police force on the protesting candidates. However, TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh denied any interference in the sit in and said that police had to remove the protestors as they were “disrupting normal life”, as quoted by PTI.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) started the probe into the alleged bribe-for-job scam in May on the orders of the high court. The case pertained to several ineligible candidates allegedly appointed as teachers in lieu of bribes from 5 to 15 lakh after failing the TET between 2014 and 2021 when TMC leader Partha Chatterjee was the state education minister.

In October, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) – which is also the probing the matter and arrested Chatterjee and his close aide Arpita Mukherjee in July – held former chairman of the board Manik Bhattacharya – also a TMC leader. He was removed from the post on an order of the Calcutta high court, following several petitions before it alleged graft in the appointment process of teachers in state-sponsored and aided schools.

(With inputs from agencies)

By Shadab

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