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ED Steps in to Probe Visva Bharati Violence, Varsity Boycotts Meeting to End Impasse

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

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

Sources in the anti-money laundering agency said it has sent separate communications to the Birbhum Superintendent of Police and university authorities seeking copies of FIRs filed in the case.

The ED waded into the Visva Bharati row on Wednesday, seeking copies of the FIRs filed by rival groups over Monday's violence to probe whether "organised money laundering" was the reason behind the affray that forced the closure of the institution, officials said.

Officials of the prestigious central university, meanwhile, kept away from a meeting called by the local administration to restore lasting peace.

Sources in the anti-money laundering agency said it has sent separate communications to the Birbhum Superintendent of Police and university authorities seeking copies of the FIRs.

Both university officials and some local people, allegedly supporters of the state's ruling TMC, have lodged cross FIRs following the incidents of vandalism on the campus.

The state government's move for an amicable resoluti onto the imbroglio came to nought on Wednesday as university authorities stayed away from a meeting called by the district magistrate.

A majority of the speakers who attended the meeting spoke against the university's decision to erect a fence around the 'Poush Mela' ground on its premises. The local artisans and craftsmen, who sell their wares at the fair, have resisted Visva Bharati's decision.

State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee, meanwhile, appealed for peace but appeared to back the locals against the university when he wondered over the need to construct a fence and said it was against the ideals of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who founded the institution.

The fair was started by his father Debendranath Tagore over a century ago. The University, which stood its ground on fencing, said its purpose was to prevent the entry of miscreants into the fair where they engaged in "deviant and dangerous"activities.

The proposed fence is not meant for obstructing those who come for a morning walk or students who play there, it said. The university defended its decision to stay away from the meeting, voicing displeasure over Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty not being consulted about its venue and timing.

"Instead of attending the meeting to be held at SDO office at Bolpur, the VC should request the district administration to have a meeting on this issue in the Visva-Bharati campus, since the premeditated vandalism and mayhem took place in the campus," the university said in a statement.

Birbhum District Magistrate Moumita Godara said, if needed, the next meeting can be held on the campus. "In today's meeting, a majority of people and other stakeholders spoke against the decision to fence the ground.If needed, the next meeting can be organised at the campus. We don't have any problem with that," she said.

The Enforcement Directorate, meanwhile, stepped in and sought documents from both the SP and the university authorities. "Due to the recent vandalism at the university we have sought the copies of the FIRs and some other documents from the two sides," a senior ED official said.

West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh had claimed on Tuesday that "vested interests" were trying to grab the landof Visva Bharati in tacit understanding with the local TMC leadership and land mafia.

Disputing Ghosh's claim, Chatterjee said, "We don't understand what is the need for fencing that ground. For so many years the land was without a fence but no one ever tried to grab it."

Trouble had erupted at the fair ground on Monday when thousands of locals collected at the university after the fencing work began, vandalised construction equipment and tore down the main gate.

Visva Bharati had on Tuesday demanded a CBI inquiry into the violence and deployment of central forces on the campus, while blaming a TMC MLA and some local ruling party leaders for the violence.

The university also said it will remain closed until the perpetrators were brought to book. The Trinamool Congress government condemned the violence but threw its weight behind the protesters.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said she was against any construction at the site and asked the district administration to convene a meeting of the stakeholders.

The university authorities, however, insisted a fence around the fair venue was required to be built to honour an order of the National Green Tribunal, which had on November 1,2017, said that a "barrier needs to be constructed to demarcate the Mela ground from the university and the locality."

Teachers' and students' bodies of Visva Bharati on Wednesday condemned the violence that rocked the campus and favoured discussions with all stakeholders before arriving at an important decision on the issue.

The alumni of the university took out a rally at Santiniketan against the proposed fencing, and said Tagore's ideals were being compromised by the present administration of Visva Bharati.

Meanwhile, the bust of noted doctor and Padma Shriawardee Sushovan Banerjee in Bolpur town was vandalised after he spoke in support of fencing of the ground. Banerjee, fondly called the 'one rupee doctor' for his meagre fee, had on Tuesday spoken in support of the university authorities. His bust was found smeared with ink.