Faced with the bumbling administration of Visva-Bharati University, Calcutta High Court has finally stepped in.
Several weeks after the proposed wall around the Pous Mela complex had roiled the campus, the court has appointed a four-member committee, helmed by Justice Sanjib Banerjee and including Justice Arijit Banerjee to ascertain what it calls “ways and means for appropriate resolution’’ of issues relating to Rabindranath Tagore’s creation, but which now showcases the gradual degradation of the legacy bequeathed by the poet.
The authorities of Visva-Bharati have, therefore, failed to fulfil their primary task. The other members of the panel are West Bengal’s Advocate-General and the Additional Solicitor-General of India. Sad to reflect, this degradation of an institution has happened over the years and over a welter of facets; the theft of Tagore’s Nobel medal from Rabindra Bhavan (March 2004), the cancellation of this December’s Pous Mela, and the vandalism that marked the demolition of the wall under construction ~ allegedly by Trinamul Congress activists ~ which are merely the exemplars of the rot within.
Suffice it to register that the campus is today virtually a turf for the underlying issue of a conflict between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamul Congress. As Visva-Bharati is a central university, it was only to be expected that the Union government would indulge in strong-arm posturing.
It is a measure of the escalating crisis within that a Division Bench (coram: TBN Radhakrishnan, CJ; and Sampa Sarkar, J) has directed that the matter will be treated as a suo motu public interest litigation. The court has directed the committee to look into different aspects of the university’s functioning ~ “fundamentally in the mode of mediation and conciliation among the different stakeholders”.
The stakeholders are one too many, and their political affiliations have exacerbated the crisis. The ViceChancellor, who has often been accused of playing to the gallery in Delhi, has been asked by the Bench to provide “appropriate assistance as may be required by the committee”. A few weeks ago, Professor Bidyut Chakraborty, the political scientist from Delhi University who helms the university, had boycotted the meeting convened by Birbhum’s District Magistrate.
“We hope to get interim reports as and when the chairperson of the committee may desire us to see any such interim report,” the Bench ruled.
It is a stark message to the university authorities. We do not know if the historical Pous Mela ground is safe. Yet we do know that the Bench has directed that “there will be no construction activity or demolition, modification or removal of any structure in any part of the land belonging to VisvaBharati or over which it has claims, except with the permission of the committee”.
This is a fairly resounding message for both the activists of the BJP and Trinamul. Altogether, the lilting lyrics of the theme song, Amader Santiniketan, must sound jarring