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Calcutta HC Panel Asks Visva-Bharati, District Authorities to Work Together for Sorting Out Problems

File Photo of Visva Bharati University, in Shantiniketan, West Bengal.

File Photo of Visva Bharati University, in Shantiniketan, West Bengal.

After visiting the ground where over a century-old fair is held, the committee conducted a two-hour-long meeting in which officials of the university and the district administration were present, a source in the institute said.

A Calcutta High Court-appointed committee on Sunday asked Visva-Bharati authorities and the Birbhum district administration to work in synergy to sort out the problem over erecting a boundary wall around a ground on the campus in an amicable manner. The four-member panel inspected the Poush Mela ground, the centre of dispute between the university and a section of local people and students, and surrounding areas. The boundary wall issue had led to violence on the campus last month.

After visiting the ground where over a century-old fair is held, the committee conducted a two-hour-long meeting in which officials of the university and the district administration were present, a source in the institute said. Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty, District Magistrate Moumita Godara and Superintendent of Police Shyam Singh attended the meeting.

"It was decided that Visva-Bharati authority and district administration would work together to sort out any problem amicably through discussion and sharing of information, maintaining the dignity and sanctity of the Institution of National Importance founded by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore," the university said in a statement. The committee will again meet to hear the views of the ashramites, local residents and representatives of the local traders' body, it said.

The Calcutta High Court on September 18 formed the four-member committee, which included two of its sitting judges, to find out ways and means for appropriate resolution of issues relating to Visva-Bharati which had witnessed violence over construction of the boundary wall. The bench also directed that there will be no construction activity or demolition, modification or removal of any structure in any part of the land belonging to Visva-Bharati or over which it has claims, except with the permission of the committee.

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Trouble erupted at Visva-Bharati in Birbhum district on August 17, when a large number of people ransacked its properties to protest against the construction of a boundary wall at the Poush Mela ground. The university authorities had alleged non-availability of state police forces despite intimations and complaints about the situation.

The police had, however, claimed there was no such intimation by the university and neither did the institute inform them when the fencing work around the Poush Mela ground started on August 15 setting off a chain of events in successive days. Poush Mela is a handicraft, handloom, art and music festival held in the Bengali month of Poush, usually December-end. Rabindranath Tagore's father Maharshi Debendranath Tagore first organised the fair in 1894 and Visva-Bharati, the university founded by the Nobel laureate, started organising it from 1951.

Visva-Bharati authorities had on July 4 decided to scrap the fair citing its "bitter experience" of the last two years in organising the winter carnival in Santiniketan amid a tussle with traders on making them comply with environmental guidelines. Unhappy with Visva-Bharati's decision to call off Poush Mela, the local traders' body on August 15 prevented the university authorities from erecting a boundary wall around the fairground. Two days later, thousands of locals ransacked the property of the institute and tore down a gate to protest against the fencing work.

The central university recently said that it is ready to organise the fair if it gets financial help from the Union government.

first published:September 20, 2020, 22:10 IST