Debjit Mukherjee, Birbhum: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday deplored attempts to “bulldoze democratic protests” in Visva-Bharati University and said though she does not want to meddle in the internal affairs of the central institution, “there has to be an end to atrocities on a section of faculty members and teachers”.
Banerjee, who is on a three-day visit to Birbhum district, said everyone should come together, setting aside political differences, to “save” the institution founded by Rabindranath Tagore.
Asked about an ongoing agitation by a section of students against the university authorities, the chief minister told reporters, “I do not want to interfere in this matter. But if someone misuses his power to stifle liberal voices, we will be forced to take necessary action.” “Many students are not getting a chance to study as they are not tip-toeing the line of the university authorities. I have met seven suspended students and feel they have been victimised. A professor has been terminated from service. A student is not allowed to complete PhD. Atrocities are taking place in different forms in this esteemed institution. I condemn those,” she said.
The CM accused the university authorities of implementing their agenda to polarise the academic ambience of the institution, and vowed that she won’t let that happen.
She said all must come forward by sinking in their differences to save the institution.
Vice Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty strongly reacted to Banerjee’s remarks, claiming that the CM is making “irresponsible statements not backed by facts”.
“How can she say we are imparting a certain ideology in the university? Has any of the academic disciplines been changed or altered in the last few years during my tenure? “Those who have faced disciplinary action tried to disrupt and vitiate the atmosphere and functioning of the institution… Action was taken against them after repeated cautionary notes. How can she be ignorant of these facts?” he said.
Visva-Bharati has asked Nobel laureate Amartya Sen to immediately hand over land he is allegedly occupying at Santiniketan in an “unauthorised manner”.
On Banerjee’s assertions that allegations of land-grabbing against Sen are baseless and an attempt to tarnish his reputation, the VC said the CM’s claims are not based on real facts and the university did not insult Sen but instead whished he cleared all confusion regarding the charge so that his image is not sullied. Chakraborty alleged that the state government built a road cutting across the campus, thus endangering heritage buildings on both sides, despite his requests to the CM to refrain from doing so.
Banerjee reached Bolpur on Monday and visited Sen at his residence and dubbed the allegations of land grabbing as “baseless”.
The state government, in a statement, said that all old land records were checked and it was found that Professor Sen’s father Ashutosh Sen was given a long-term lease of 1.38 acres and not 1.25 acres of land as claimed by the university.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the university said the state government’s claims were wrong and iterated that Sen has been illegally possessing 0.13 acres of land.
The 90-year-old economist had recently said that Banerjee has the ability to be the prime minister.
He thanked Banerjee for visiting him on Monday but said “those trying to take away my home because of ideological differences would find another way to get back at me”.
The university said Sen could resolve the matter through discussions with the institution’s authorities or fight it out in the court.