17 people have been arrested since Wednesday in connection with the attack on the hostel.
For nearly an hour, almost 40 girl students were trapped in their hostel in West Bengal's Howrah district as fire engines tried to douse a blaze at the building. The hostel was set on fire by members of a youth club on Wednesday due to a dispute over land with the owner of the institute.
Students fled the hostel, screaming in horror. "We are fleeing... we want to live... if we stay here we won't survive... we are frightened and leaving..." said one of the students literally running for her life.
17 people have been arrested since yesterday in connection with the attack. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has ordered strict action against the offenders.
Around 9:30 am on Wednesday, a large number of members of the Yuvak Sangha club of Nischinda in Howrah's Bally first set up a road block and then stormed the Surendra Lal Memorial Teachers Training College and ransacked the premises. They then attacked the hostel, setting two gates leading in and out of it on fire as well. On Thursday, some people again hurled stones at the college.
The bone of contention is a plot of land adjoining the college. The club lays claim to a part of it, so does the institute's founder.
"I told them to take some land that they need for the club... but leave the rest. But they didn't agree and now they have started vandalizing my house and even attacked my car," said Bishnupada Das, the college founder. A club member who did not wish to be named said, "Das has no right to the land. He wants to grab it. He is threatening us."
Trouble was brewing for months but came to a head when the founder filed a police complaint recently against some club members. The local Trinamool legislator, who is also irrigation minister, tried to thrash matters out across the table but failed.
"This kind of attack on an educational institute is unacceptable. The chief minister is perturbed and the toughest possible action will be taken against the offenders irrespective of party colour," the minister, Rajiv Banerjee said.