‘Lawful’ vandalism

Karachi – Police on Monday again used force to quell a protest by teachers who took to the streets for their rights. Women were also among the protesters.

Lawmen used teargas, water cannons and batons when teachers attempted to reach the Chief Minister’s House to lodge their protest, eyewitnesses, teachers and officials said.

Reportedly, six people sustained injuries while two dozen demonstrators were detained in police action. Last week too, police thrashed the protesting teachers in front of the CM House –  the third lesson in the current month.

Dawn News reported several hundred teachers arrived at the scheduled time at Karachi Press Club and tried to proceed onwards, contingents of police already deployed at all surrounding roads, where temporary barriers were also set up, baton-charged them, fired tear-gas shells and used water cannon.

Authorities concerned earlier invited the teachers for talks at commissioner’s office where both parties failed to reach consensus.

Saddar Superintendent Police (SP) Tauqeer Mohammed Naeem told Dawn that the teachers “compelled” the police to take action as they were protesting in Red Zone where such rallies have been banned by the provincial government.

The SP said the police mainly relied on the use of water cannon to disperse the teachers. However, when they allegedly attacked policemen with stones and tried to damage their mobile vans, police were forced to resort to baton-charge and fire tear gas, he claimed.

“Around 20 to 25 teachers were detained,” said SP Naeem.

However, central leader of All Sindh Primary Teachers Association, Javed Ahmed, said he along with 70 to 80 teachers have been detained at Artillery Maidan police station alone, while several other teachers have been detained at other police stations.

Ahmed said that they have started their march for fulfillment of their 16-point demands, some of which have already been agreed to by the provincial authorities but are not being implemented. The march started from the mausoleum of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai in Bhit Shah on December 10, and after passing through various cities arrived at the KPC on Monday. The teacher body’s leader said that two officials from District South administration approached them for talks, to which they agreed.

Ahmed said he along with four other office-bearers held talks with commissioner Karachi while special secretary education was also present there.

“We left the commissioner’s office when we were told they (the senior officials) were not present to fulfill teachers’ demands,” said Ahmed.

He said when they were about to reach the KPC, the policemen already deployed there arrested them. And as other teachers tried to move after failure of talks, they were subjected to “executive high-handedness”.

He claimed a female teacher, Farzana, became unconscious due to tear gas shelling while one teacher’s nose was hurt when they were baton-charged.

Regarding future line of action, the teacher said they have decided to hold a “hunger strike till death” at the KPC until their demands are fulfilled.

Some of the demands pertain to promotion of teachers to grade-16 scale, regularisation of services of contract teachers and of teachers who have passed NTS tests. He claimed that in 2014, the Sindh government had agreed to grant them grade-16 scale but it has not been implemented so far due to unknown reasons.

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