Mihir Goswami opens the district ABPTA office gate on Monday. (Main Uddin Chisti)
TT, Cooch Behar, June 13: Trinamul MLA Mihir Goswami today removed flags of his party and reopened the office of a CPM-affiliated teacher’s association in Cooch Behar that had repeatedly been locked after Mamata Banerjee’s party rode back to power on May 19.
The All Bengal Primary Teachers Association had complained to the Cooch behar South MLA on June 11 that they were unable to enter their office as it had twice been locked by unidentified persons. The first time this happened was on the night of May 19, when Trinamul flags were strung from the metal collapsible gate of the two-storey building.
Members of the ABPTA, once Bengal’s biggest association of primary schoolteachers, broke open the lock and informed police. But on the night of May 24, again some unidentified people locked the office and put up Trinamul flags.
Since then, the building, which was once the hub of activity as it housed the district primary school council, stayed locked. The ABPTA members did not go to the police this time.
At 10am today, Goswami, who in his sixties and has become a legislator for the second time in Cooch Behar, went to the teachers’ association office, removed the Trinamul flags and hammered the lock till it broke.
He then told the gathered ABPTA members: “You can sit here and carry out your work in peace. If there is any problem, please inform me.”
The building in the heart of Cooch Behar town was opened on December 15, 1987, by the organisation’s state secretary, Gokulananda Roy. “The building belongs to the ABPTA and was constructed on land belonging to our organisation,” ABPTA district secretary Sunil Kumar Kundu said.
Goswami, who left the Congress to join Trinamul in 1998, was later asked why he went out of his way to help a CPM-affiliated association when in other parts of Bengal the Left was alleging that the ruling party had captured many of its offices.
The MLA did not give a direct reply but said: “Whoever did it (locked the ABPTA office), we shall not tolerate such acts. I do not want any illegal occupation of land and premises. Extortion will not be tolerated anywhere in my constituency. I will try and prevent these acts to the best of my ability.”
He also made it clear that he did not think any Trinamul activist was behind this. “Trinamul workers or supporters are not behind this. Someone tried to create tension by putting up our party flags and locking up the premises,” he said.
Before 2011, Cooch Behar was a Forward Bloc stronghold but it has since then lost ground to Trinamul significantly.
In the 2006 Assembly elections in the nine Cooch Behar seats, Forward Bloc had won four, the CPM three, the Congress and Trinamul one each. A decade later in this Assembly election, Trinamul got eight of the nine seats. The Bloc’s most prominent leader Udayan Guha switched to Trinamul before this year’s elections.
The district ABPTA unit, which has also seen depletion in its ranks, has alleged that ruling party activists tried to block their entrance.
Today, though, its members were all praise for Goswami.
“We had written to the MLA on June 11, informing him that our district office had been locked up and Trinamul flags were hung at the entrance by workers of the ruling party. We had appealed to him to help us re-enter our office. We praise the MLA for the initiative he has taken today. His action will go a long way in strengthening democracy,” Kundu said.
He added the ABPTA wanted to felicitate Goswami as he is an MLA of the ruling party “with a difference”.
Goswami, who retired as a clerk with the West Bengal State Co-operative Bank two years ago, had helped a CPM worker from Haribhanga in Cooch Behar (South) return home after he was driven away by alleged Trinamul workers after the declaration of election results this time