Amid strong police presence, fencing around the heritage Poush Mela ground at Santiniketan by the Visva-Bharati University authorities continued for the second day on Tuesday. An Executive Council member of the university said that construction of a boundary wall, over which there will be barbed wire fencing, began from Monday after a committee appointed by the Calcutta High Court had given its consent with certain specifications.
The committee had met stakeholders in the varsity, locals and the administration to arrive at a solution following the vandalism on August 17 during a protest over erection of the wall around the Mela ground. Poush Mela is an annual cultural event being held for over a century. It is organised in the month of December.
A section of local residents, businessmen and students, under the banner of ‘Mela Math Banchao Committee'(save the fair ground committee), held a sit-in in front of the Bolpur fire brigade office, during the day, demanding immediate stoppage of work. A police officer said, cops were deployed around the ground and water cannon was kept ready to cope with any situation since morning but there was no untoward incident till afternoon.
The West Bengal government on prayed before the Calcutta High Court for a stay on a decision by a court-appointed committee allowing fencing of the Poush Mela ground at Shantiniketan, even as the state’s advocate general expressed his desire to be excluded from the panel.
The court said that it is the duty of the police machinery to uphold law and order and rule of law has to be maintained by its keepers. A division bench comprising Chief Justice TBN Radhakrishnan and Justice Shampa Sarkar said that it will consider the prayer of the state government on Wednesday when the matter will be heard again.
The bench said that it will also consider Advocate General Kishore Dutta’s desire to be excluded from the court-appointed committee on the next date of hearing. The committee, appointed to find out ways and means for appropriate resolution of issues relating to Visva-Bharati, is headed by Justice Sanjib Banerjee and has Justice Arijit Banerjee as one of its members, along with the advocate general and the additional solicitor general of the Union government.
The bench said that the heritage and history of Rabindra Tagore’s Shantiniketan, of which the Poush Mela has become a part, have to be preserved. The court had on the last date of hearing on September 18 directed that the matter will be treated as a suo moto public interest litigation in view of the importance of the"great institution" founded and carried forward by Gurudev Tagore.
The university authorities on Monday night sent a written request to the district magistrate and superintendent of police seeking adequate posting of police personnel and imposition of section 144 CrPC apprehending a rerun of the August 17 incident, when a mob went on a rampage, vandalised property of the central university and tore down the heritage gate. However, prohibitory order had not been clamped, the police officer said.