Visva-Bharati’s claim on ancestral land has no standing, says Amartya Sen | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Visva-Bharati’s claim on ancestral land has no standing, says Amartya Sen

Apr 18, 2023 06:47 PM IST

In an email to the central university’s estate officer, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, 89, said the magistrate of the area has noted that the existing arrangement should be recognised and that no interference or breach of peace should be allowed

NEW DELHI: Nobel laureateAmartya Sen on Monday responded to Visva-Bharati’s final eviction notice sent on April 13, emphasising that the university’s claim on part of the leased land covered by his ancestral property on the campus has no legal standing, people familiar with the matter said.

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen speaks with the media at his ancestral home ‘Pratichi’ at Santiniketan in Birbhum district (PTI File Photo)
Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen speaks with the media at his ancestral home ‘Pratichi’ at Santiniketan in Birbhum district (PTI File Photo)

This is the 89-year-old economist’s first official reply to the eviction notice issued by Visva-Bharati, Bengal’s only central university. Sen is currently in the USA.

In an email to the joint registrar and estate officer, Sen said: “We have seen a statement issued by some parts of Visva-Bharati about my ancestral home at Pratichi, Santiniketan, which has been in the possession and regular use of my family since 1943. I am the holder of the land, and it was passed on to me after the death of my parents Ashutosh Sen and Amita Sen. They also purchased other land in close proximity to the leased land.”

HT has reviewed a copy of the email.

“The use of the land has remained the same over this long period (in fact 80 years). Any contrary claim to this leased land before the expiry of the lease cannot stand. The magistrate of the area has noted that the existing arrangement should be recognised and that no interference or breach of peace should be allowed,” Sen said.

Sen added that he will be back in Santiniketan in June.

The university’s April 13 notice said that Sen had failed to respond to the institution’s previous letters and a March 17 eviction notice on his alleged illegal occupancy of a portion of land, and that an eviction order will be passed on April 19.

‘Pratichi,’ Sen’s home, stands on the sprawling campus at Bolpur in Bengal’s Birbhum district.

Since 2022, vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty has claimed that Sen is in possession of 1.38 acres of land on the Santiniketan campus.

Chakrabarty has said that Sen’s father, who was a professor at Visva-Bharati, rented only 1.25 acres of land on a 99-year lease in 1943 and thus, the remaining .13 decimal should be returned to the university.

The university has said that it has sent three letters to Sen since January 24 and the first eviction notice was issued on March 17. Sen neither replied to the letters nor appeared in person for the hearings during his stay at Santiniketan earlier this year. Instead, Sen sent his lawyers to the university hearings. He returned to the USA in February.

In the April 13 notice, varsity’s joint registrar and estate officer A K Mahato said it appeared that “the alleged unauthorised occupant does not want to face this inquiry; rather he wants to subvert or bypass this proceeding by other means including initiating proceedings at other forum… I decide that no further opportunity for showing cause or attending personal hearing shall be allowed to the alleged unauthorised occupant”.

It added that the final order will be issued on April 19 at 12 noon and that Sen may submit a written statement by e-mail by April 18 “as a last chance given to him.”

The notice, seen by HT, was issued under the Public Premises (Eviction and Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971.

No Visva-Bharati official commented on Sen’s e-mail.

Sen’s lawyer Gora Chand Chakrabarty said: “It is difficult to say whether the e-mail will have any effect on the decisions already taken by Visva-Bharati. Based on our appeal, the executive magistrate of Bolpur earlier issued an order under Section 145 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC) asking the local police to maintain peace and tranquillity at ‘Pratichi.’ That order is still valid. Let’s see what happens on Wednesday.”

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met Nobel laureate Amartya Senon Jan 30 (PTI)
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met Nobel laureate Amartya Senon Jan 30 (PTI)

On January 30, chief minister Mamata Banerjee met Sen at ‘Pratichi’ and handed over a state land and revenue department record, which showed that all 1.38 decimals covered by the property belonged to him through a mutation executed in 2006.

The university has challenged this document before the local land records authority.

During his stay on the campus earlier this year, Sen said that he was being targeted for his views on secularism.

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