Intellectuals of various fields on Sunday took part in a protest to express their support to Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on the row over his family being in "illegal" possession of land at Visva Bharati, and denounced the "dictatorial and autocratic" conduct of the central university towards him. Poets Joy Goswami and Subodh Sarkar, singer Kabir Suman, painters Jogen Chowdhury and Suvaprasanna, theatre personality-turned-minister Bratya Basu and others assembled at the compound of the Academy of Fine Arts here to raise their voice on the issue.
They were holding placards saying "Will not accept BJP's insult to Bengalis", "Insult to Amartya Sen is insult to Bengalis". Visva Bharati has recently written to the West Bengal government claiming that dozens of land parcels owned by it were wrongfully recorded in the names of private parties including Sen. The economist said that the entire land occupied by him on the campus was registered on a long term lease that was nowhere close to expiry.
"I protest the dictatorial and autocratic conduct of Visva Bharati with a personality like Amartya Sen. We are here to register our protest and opposition to the treatment meted out to Sen and express our solidarity with him, Goswami said. The vice-chancellor of Visva Bharati was appointed by the BJP-led government at the Centre which is targeting Sen as he had never been afraid to air his views, Suman alleged.
Basu said, "The BJP has always been opposed to free thinkers. We have assembled here to voice our protest. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already pledged her solidarity to Amartya Sen." Banerjee, also the Trinamool Congress supremo, had claimed that the world renowned economist has been subjected to such attack by the present authorities of the university because of his ideological anti-BJP stance. The US-based economist, an icon of Bengali achievement on world stage, has often been critical of the Narendra Modi government's economic policies.
Reacting to the protests, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said, "Those intellectuals should keep in mind that the Trinamool Congress is fast losing the support of people of the state. They must remember that the TMC uses intellectuals only when it faces imminent defeat." At an event held on a different issue, senior CPI(M) leader and Left Front chairman Biman Bose said that the way Sen is being treated by Visva Bharati authorities is most unfortunate. He said that the West Bengal government should hold discussions with the university authorities so that they stop treating the economist in this way.
Sen was born in 1933 at Santiniketan, which is home to Visva Bharati, the university founded by Rabindranath Tagore, another Nobel prize recipient and a Bengali icon. Visva Bharati authorities had never complained to him or his family about any irregularity in holding the land, the economist said in a statement on the land controversy on Friday.