Locals oppose wall around Tagore’s Visva Bharati university ground, demolish gates
The local people and traders, for whom the Poush Mela in December on the university’s ground is a major source of income, are opposed to the wall.
A large crowd of local people headed by some Trinammol Congress (TMC) leaders, demolished two gates of the campus of Visva Bharati, in Bolpur in Bengal’s Birbhum district, on Monday morning and vandalised construction material stocked by the authorities to build a wall around the ground where an annual fair is held.
Held around Christmas, the fair, popularly known as Poush Mela, draws thousands of people and even foreign tourists. The Visva Bharati is Bengal’s only central university
A TMC lawmaker said local people will never allow the university founded by Rabindranath Tagore which is largely an open air institution to be “caged behind walls”.
The local people and traders, for whom the fair is a major source of income are opposed to the wall and have been staging demonstrations since Saturday. However, Bidyut Chakrabarty, the vice-chancellor, did not budge from his decision to build the wall to stop entry of outsiders. Last year, Chakrabarty removed some temporary shops that continued to do business even after the fair was over. He also deployed private security agencies to guard the campus.
On Monday, a large crowd went to the fairground and vandalized a temporary office set up for the construction and destroyed two gates and construction material such as bricks and cement, using a small earth moving vehicle.
Naresh Bauri, a resident of Bolpur and TMC lawmaker from the district’s Dubrajpur constituency, headed the agitators on Monday. “I was not there as a TMC leader but as a local resident. How can Tagore’s university, which was supposed to be a part of nature, be caged behind walls. Local people will never tolerate this,” said Bauri.
The vice-chancellor did not make any comment on the incident till 3. 30 pm. Anirban Sarkar, the only designated spokesperson of Visva Bharati did not take calls. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an officer at Shantiniketan police station said the situation became normal after 2 pm.
A teacher from Visva Bharati told HT that Chakrabarty held a meeting with the departmental heads and principals of different institutes where he expressed his concern and talked of closing the campus temporarily to stop entry of outsiders.
Susovan Banerjee, a member of the Visva Bharati executive committee told a local television channel that there is nothing wrong in the university trying to stop encroachment on its property.
The Visva Bharti is a centrally-funded autonomous university with 10 sub- institutes. The institutes of higher education are renowned for excellence in their respective fields. Since Tagore wanted a campus where students would study in the midst of nature, many classes are held in the open.
The Prime Minister is the chancellor of Visva Bharati.
Expressing his concern, governor Jagdeep Dhankhar contacted chief minister Mamata Banerjee and sought intervention by the police.
“Situation of law and order in Visva Bharati is alarming. Am trying to be in touch with CM to secure peace in temple of learning. As per VC violators of law have entered campus and destroyed property. CS, HS, DM and SP @MamataOfficial have not responded to call of Visva Bharati,” Dhankhar tweeted at 12.42 pm
After talking to Banerjee over phone, he tweeted, “Just had word with Chief Minister over Visva Bharati worsening law and order scenario. She has assured that administration @MamataOfficial will take all steps to restore law and order. Am sure those enjoined with task will rise to the occasion.”
Reacting to the governor’s intervention, education minister and TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said, “The governor house has become the party office of the Bharatiya Janata Party.”