Days after Visva Bharati University named Nobel laureate Amartya Sen as a squatter on its land, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said the Public Works Department (PWD) will take back control of a road near the campus.
The 2.9 km long road passes through the front of Amartya Sen’s house – popularly known as ‘Pratichi’ – and connects two campuses of the university - Santiniketan and Sriniketan. The road belongs to the state PWD but its possession was given to the university authorities in 2017 on their request.
“They requested us to take custody of the road two-three years ago for their convenience. There are many complaints from local people that they are not being allowed to use the road and it was causing inconvenience. The road is also not maintained properly. So, the PWD will now take control of it," Banerjee said at an administrative meeting at Bolpur in Birbhum district.
“Therefore, today I have cleared a file and taken back the road to our custody for the better maintenance and for the convenience of the common people,” she added.
Banerjee’s action came days after VBU claimed that Amartya Sen was among the “illegal occupants” of the campus property. The Nobel laureate has denied the charge of illegal occupation, and said that the land in question was registered in records on a long-term lease.
Hitting out at the BJP, Mamata said, “It is unfortunate those who don’t know much about Rabindranath Tagore are now trying to capture Visva Bharati. The ruling party at the Centre is creating chaos in the entire country.”
Earlier on Monday, while responding to Mamata Banerjee’s solidarity through e-mail, Sen said he was touched to get the support of the chief minister.
He further said, “Your strong voice, along with your full understanding of what is going on is, for me, a tremendous source of strength. May I send you my deep appreciation of the warmth of your extremely kind letter. I also take the liberty of conveying to you my thanks as well as my personal affection and admiration.”
The controversy started after VBU prepared a list of illegal occupants and mentioned Amartya Sen’s name. VBU claimed that his house, popularly known as ‘Pratichi’ in the neighbourhood, is occupying around 138 decimals while the original lease was given for 125 decimals to his father Ashutosh Sen – who taught Chemistry at Dhaka University.
Standing beside Amartya Sen, Mamata had written a letter to him, which read, “I write this letter to express my surprise and anguish over some recent developments, as I read about them in the media, alluding to your ancestral links in Santiniketan. Amartya Sen’s family weaved in the culture and fabric of Santiniketan, inalienably.”
While expressing her solidarity she wrote, “In this battle against the bigotry of the majoritarian, please count me as your sister and friend. We shall overcome.”