Press Trust of India|Dec 3, 2023
Visva Bharati hits back at academics for writing letter to President over sacking of professor
University statement said Bhattacharya was office-bearer that had institutional recognition and had been charge sheeted 14 times for misconduct.
KOLKATA: Three days after over 250 academics, including well-known linguist Noam Chomsky, wrote to President Droupadi Murmu about the sacking of a Visva Bharati professor and seeking her intervention, the central university in a statement regretted that the signatories signed the letter without ascertaining the real situation that had rocked the varsity in past two years.
The statement issued by Visva Bharati spokesperson Dr Mahua Banerjee on Friday evening also claimed that Professor Sudipta Bhattacharya was office-bearer of an organisation which has no institutional recognition and he had been charge sheeted 14 times in past by Executive Council for misconduct. The misconduct of Bhattacharya range from abetting students vandalise varsity properties in campus, gherao of the Vice-Chancellor, Registrar in past, gherao of eminent columnist and Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta in January 2020, it said.
The Visva Bharati university further claimed most of the signatories are from Bengal and from one particular state-run university. "We condemn the teachers who are organised to stop the process of purging Visva Bharati of truant and deviant teachers.....Not only is Visva Bharati taking ample care in identifying those who are involved in destroying the core values which its founder Rabindranath Tagore upheld and also remain negligent in attending the rituals which Gurudev initiated for spreading his philosophical priorities.
"It is unfortunate that the....academics mainly from West Bengal have come to the support of those who are at work to devastate and damage the academic foundation of universities," the spokesperson said in her statement. The letter by Chomsky and other signatories, dated January 9, had described the action by Visva Bharati to sack Bhyattacharya as brazenly "illegal", arguing that no proper inquiry was conducted to verify the "list of misconducts" flagged by the university as having been allegedly committed by Bhattacharya on different occasions. A copy of the letter has been made available to PTI.
Bhattacharya was on December 22 told about his "discontinuation of service/contract with Visva Bharati" in a meeting of the executive council of the central university, the letter to the president said. "Neither has there been a show cause notice issued to the professor concerned," stated the letter, undersigned by Chomsky, economist Amiya Bagchi, former director of Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Partha Chatterjee, XLRI Professor Sumit Sarkar and Jadavpur University Emeritus Professor Supriya Chaudhury among others.
"As the visitor of Visva Bharati and the custodian of statutes and ordinance of the university, we urge you to kindly intervene and ensure that this institute of national importance that was founded by Rabindranath Tagore continues to foster the spirit of 'where the mind is without fear' instead of descending into a saga of vendetta, intimidation and high-handedness by the authorities," the letter said. Bhattacharya, when approached, told PTI that Visva Bharati has "launched a vilification campaign against those who dared to protest against the misrule of VC and the last statement is also a pointed to the act."
He said by bracketing the signatories as "mostly from Bengal and from one particular state university, Visva Bharati revealed its own arrogant self and insulted the teaching community of the state. "I will not give up my fight for justice. The teaching community and the students are with me," he claimed. A section of students has been staging demonstrations on the campus since November 23 over alleged denial of hostel accommodation to some of their peers and the suspension of six others.
The convocation ceremony and the annual Poush Mela (a fair held in the month of December) have been called off by the university in the wake of the unrest. In a media statement last week, a Visva Bharati spokesperson listed a series of alleged activities of the students such as vandalism at the vice-chancellor's chamber and ante-chamber, ransacking of CCTV monitors, physical assault on the VC, and attack on the registrar's private residence and the VC's official home, and said the varsity will be taking legally endorsed steps, including rustication and dismissal, to restore peace on the campus.
"... the so-called student movement has been nothing but a brazen display of thuggery. The might is right attitude that has characterised this self-styled democratic movement is unacceptable and shall be dealt with sternly," the earlier university statement added.
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