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V-B debunks Sen

The Nobel laureate has succinctly exposed the malaise that has permeated the central university with the statement that “a big gap exists between the Santiniketan culture and that of the Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor, empowered as he is by the central government in Delhi, with its growing control over Bengal”.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

In the season of Pous Mela, Visva-Bharati’s unique festival that has been cancelled this year on account of the resultant environmental degradation and the coronavirus pandemic, it is deeply unfortunate that the Centrally-administered university has provoked a land controversy over Amartya Sen’s house in Santiniketan, built by his father, Ashutosh Sen.

The immediate provocation is the alleged encroachment by vegetable vendors in the vicinity. The university authorities are impervious to the fact that such encroachments have over the years become an integral feature of the landscape both in Kolkata and the rest of West Bengal.

Eviction is the responsibility of the municipality. Sen, now based in Harvard for the better part of the year, can scarcely be blamed.

The unseemy controversy is of a piece with his role in the foundation and growth of Nalanda University, much against the agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Nobel laureate has succinctly exposed the malaise that has permeated the central university with the statement that “a big gap exists between the Santiniketan culture and that of the Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor, empowered as he is by the central government in Delhi, with its growing control over Bengal”.

The latest development has compounded the controversy triggered by the VC, Prof Bidyut Chakraborty, with his contention that Rabindranath Tagore was born in Santiniketan ~ an inexcusable ignorance of Jorasanko ~, not to forget his reference to Sen as a recipient of the Bharat Ratna. Visva-Bharati’s estate office has recently prepared a list of “illegal occupants”, one that mentions the name of Sen. His house, named Pratichi, allegedly occupies 138 decimals though the original lease was given on 125 decimals.

Reports suggest that a section of the university has buttressed its version through innuendos that suggest an intent to debunk the reputation of Sen. He has swiftly countered his detractors in Santiniketan, saying: “We are being told by Visva-Bharati University that its Vice- Chancellor, Bidyut Chakraborty, is busy arranging the eviction of unauthorised occupation of leased land on the campus. I have also been named in the ‘list of occupants’ even though Visva-Bharati has never complained about any irregularity of land holding to us.

The VB land on which our house is situated is entirely on a long-term lease, which is nowhere near its expiry. Some addtional land was bought by my father as freehold and registered in land records under mouza Surul”.

We do not know whether Visva-Bharati University will respond to Sen; it ought to be more incisive than to offer an airy-fairy charge relating to land rights and encroachment by vegetable vendors. Yet we do know that Sen has set the record straight. He has garnered prompt support from Mamata Banerjee ~ “Count me as your sister and friend. We shall overcome.”