Visva-Bharati’s eviction order: Intellectuals, academicians protest outside Amartya Sen’s house

Intellectuals, academicians, and supporters of Trinamool Congress (TMC), have been holding a sit-in protest at Santiniketan in West Bengal’s Birbhum district against the eviction order by Visva-Bharati for Nobel laureate Amartya Sen to vacate the land on the campus he has been allegedly occupying in an unauthorised manner.

Among the intellectuals include filmmaker Goutam Ghosh, and artists Suvaprasanna and Jogen Chowdhury. “Amartya Sen believes in the ideology of Rabindranath Tagore. The present government at the centre doesn’t believe in that ideology and that’s why they want to malign Sen and Visva-Bharati,” Chowdhury, veteran artist and a former TMC Rajya Sabha MP, according to Hindustan Times.

“The way an eminent person like Amartya Sen was harassed and ill-treated, one can’t even imagine. This could have been solved. But it was blown out of proportion,” Ghosh told reporters at Santiniketan.

With Rabindranath Tagore’s birth anniversary being celebrated today across the country, the institution, which was set up by the Nobel laureate, too is set to hold several events.

The Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika has reported that various departments of the university have had to remain closed as a result. The university, however, has said through its spokesperson that Tagore’s birthday celebrations will continue as scheduled.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee also threatened a demonstration if the Visva-Bharati authorities bring in bulldozers and try to take possession of the 0.13-acre land at Pratichi– Sen’s house on the campus, according to the Hindustan Times. The Calcutta high court on Thursday put an interim stay on the April 19 eviction order.

“Having heard the learned advocates, the learned district judge, Birbhum is requested to hear the stay application on 10th May 2023 at 2 P.M and till then, the order of a joint registrar, Visva Bharati and estate officer should not be enforced or till the date of disposal of the stay application, whichever is later,” the high court order, according to the HT.

University’s allegation 

In January, the university authorities issued a letter to the Nobel laureate, accusing him of possessing excess lands that belonged to the university. The varsity in its letter stated that the land had been leased to his father at Shantiniketan in Bolpur in Birbhum district and currently they demand that the same be handed over, according to the Outlook.

“Two options are open: the confusion that Prof Sen seems to be happily nurturing shall be cleared with the intervention of the court of law or through discussion with the Visva-Bharati authority,” the statement of the latest notice reads. The university sent two letters within three days last week to Sen.

“We have requested him to hand over the excess land and have also offered him the opportunity of a joint survey in presence of his surveyor/advocate,” the statement said.

Visva-Bharati Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty told The Indian Express that they would fight the matter in court, and said they had the papers to prove their case. “If he (Sen) goes to court, it is good. He should submit all the documents. The issue will be cleared. There will be no disrespect to him or to us. We do not feel good about it either.”

The letter said, “The procedure for reclamation of illegally-occupied land follows the well-established laws of the land.” A Visva-Bharati official said the letter has been delivered to the Santiniketan residence of the economist who mostly lives in the USA.

Property was leased for 99 years

Sen’s family has lived in the house named ‘Pratichi’ – built on a 1.38-acre plot in Bolpur – which the university authorities have now claimed is illegally occupying 0.13 acres. The land on which Sen’s ancestral house stands was leased for 99 years to his father, Ashutosh Sen in 1943 by Rathindra Nath Tagore, Rabindranath’s son, who was the then general secretary of Visva-Bharati, reported The Wire. The varsity on April 19 ordered Sen to vacate the concerned area by May 6.



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