Syama Prasad’s title smeared with ink at Presidency College

KOLKATA: The politics of vandalism and defacing of statues and plaques returned to Kolkata after a brief interlude when Mookerjee’s name, on the Hall of Fame board installed at his alma mater, , was smeared with black ink.
Monday’s incident came 12 days after his bust, installed at a park near the Keoratala crematorium, was damaged and sprayed with ink. The miscreants, police said, could include a section of current students and alumni. Cops have launched a probe following a complaint from the institution, which itself has formed a five-member inquiry committee to identify the culprits.

The Hall of Fame is a relatively new addition to India’s oldest modern higher education institute and was planned as part of its 200th-anniversary celebrations last year. Mookerjee’s name shares space with those of 200-odd other famous alumni and faculty. These include Swami Vivekananda, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Satyendranath Bose, Satyajit Ray, Amartya Sen, and fellow politicians like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, India’s first president, Rajendra Prasad, and several former chief ministers, and the act invited all-round condemnation from both alumni and current students.

The matter came to light on Monday, when an “outsider” called the university authorities to alert them. Officials rushed to the portico and discovered that Mookerjee’s name on the plaque — mounted on a wall to the left of the staircase at the main building — had indeed been sprayed with black ink. They briefed university registrar Debajyoti Konar, who was meeting other officials in his room, about the defacement. Konar then called vice-chancellor Anuardha Lohia, who was in Nadia to attend a meeting.

Lohia said a five-member probe committee had been formed to identify the miscreants and take action against them. “No one will be out of its purview and even the role of security personnel on campus will be probed,” Konar said. “The five-member committee will exchange findings with the state administration and cops,” he added.

Education minister said the act that “did nothing to enhance Presidency’s reputation”. “Defacing statues, busts and plaques of stalwarts is not Bengal’s culture,” he added.

The university ground hosted a sports league, where students from other colleges participated, over the weekend. “It could have been the act of students subscribing to ultra-Left ideologies. The particular portion of the Hall of Fame, where Mookerjee’s name was there, was not covered by CCTV cameras. This may have encouraged the miscreants,” an official said. Others agreed, saying identifying the culprits might not be easy.

The incident would have taken place between Sunday evening and Monday morning, cops said quoting university officials. “We have spoken to guards. We are analysing the CCTV grabs of adjoining areas and drawing up a list of people whose statements will be recorded. The Special Branch has been asked to provide a list of students who may be involved. We will match their photos with the CCTV footage,” a police officer said.

Some of the first images of the defaced plaque, which were shared on social media, were under scanner. “The miscreants shared the first images of the defacement. We are hopeful we can track down the first recipients,” one of them added. “The university, too, has launched a probe of its own. We will share our inputs. We will consult our legal department to ascertain whether we can slap charges under IPC,” a Jorasanko cop said.

Cops have increased their presence around statues in and around College Square. “We had no prior intelligence that something like this could take plac,” a Lalbazar officer said. “But we would like to foil a repeat or any counter-vandalism. We have increased our presence in the area.”

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