Visva Bharati: A great university in chaos
Pritha Roy Choudhury|Mar 23, 2023
KOLKATA: In a fresh missive to Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Visva-Bharati university on Friday asked him to immediately hand over parts of a plot he was allegedly occupying in an “unauthorised manner” at Santiniketan. This is the second such letter from the central university to the noted economist in three days.
Sen has earlier asserted that most of the land he is holding in the Santiniketan campus was purchased from the market by his father while some other plots were taken on lease. "The annexed letter dated January 24 and other documents are self-explanatory. You are in possession of 1.38 acre of land which is in excess of your legal entitlement of 1.25 acre. “Kindly return the land to Visva-Bharati as early as possible since application of the laws of the land will cause embarrassment to you and also to Visva-Bharati which you endear so much," the letter dated January 27 said.
Hinting that action under law would be taken by the university if measures were not taken on the part of Sen now, 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.
Three days back, a letter signed by the deputy registrar of the university to Sen said, "It has been found from records and physical survey/demarcation that you are in unauthorised occupation of 13 decimals of land belonging to Visva Bharati...".
Charges should be backed by evidence, Sen later said adding that otherwise, “there can be exchanges of words which may continue for an indefinite period. What purpose that will serve?" If a person who cannot differentiate between truth and lies takes over as the Visva Bharati Vice Chancellor, that is a sad situation, he said.
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"I don't know why he (Visva Bharati Vice Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty) is targetting me," Sen said to another question. Asked if he is willing to hold a discussion with Chakraborty, as wished by him, Sen said in a ligher vein: "Yes I am so willing to talk to him."
To a query if the BJP-run Centre has any role in the entire row, he said, "I won't talk about politics." There have been allegations from certain quarters that the university's actions may be politically motivated given the fact that Sen has been critical of many central government policies.
Vice Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty told reporters the land controversy should be settled once and for all for the prestige of Sen, as Visva Bharati "does not want him, a man of international stature, to be dogged by the controversy over occupying an unauthorised plot of land."
Chakraborty also said that Sen is undoubtedly a world-famous thinker, economist and pride of the country but he cannot be technically called a Nobel laureate as Alfred Nobel had instituted the prize for five fields - physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace as per the original deeds and economics was not among the subjects.
Later, the Sweden Central Bank instituted an award having "the same amount of prize money for Economics in memory of Alfred Nobel and Sen is the recipient of that award,” the VC said.
Asked to comment on the VC's assertion, Sen said, "He can make any claim as he wishes on this issue, but I have really nothing to say." Sen on January 25 had wondered why the central university suddenly has become "so active" in trying to drive him out of that place.
In January 2021 also, Visva-Bharati accused Sen's family of being in illegal possession of land on the campus. Founded by the first non-European Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in 1921, Visva-Bharati was declared to be a central university and an institution of national importance by an Act of Parliament in 1951.
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