Visva-Bharati Vice Chancellor Prof Bidyut Chakraborty held a sit-in on the premises of the central university on Saturday, demanding that the West Bengal government return the control of a major road which links its two campuses. Two more dharnas were also held in the area during the day. Left wing students protested against the suspension of a professor by the varsity authorities, while local traders demanded that the institute return caution money taken from them for setting up stalls at last year’s Poush Mela which was not organised due to the pandemic situation.
The vice-chancellor sat for several hours at Chhatimtala area where prayers are held on major occasions, as a section of faculty, students and non-teaching staff accompanying him held placards demanding that the state government give back control of the road to the university authorities. The state government took back control of the 2.9 km road connecting the Visva-Bharati’s Santiniketan campus to Sriniketan on January 1 after a section of the ashramites complained to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that the university was limiting access of local people to the road.
It was handed over to the institute in 2017 for ensuring that heritage structures in the campus are not damaged with the plying of heavy vehicles. Chakraborty who had written a letter to the chief minister earlier this month in this regard did not speak to the media but faced protests by Left wing students while leaving the spot in the evening.
The students were protesting near Chhatimtala against the recent suspension of Economics professor Sudipta Bhattacharya by the university authorities on the charge of circulating allegations on social media against a colleague. Bhattacharya recently alleged irregularities in the appointment of a colleague and even wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Visitor and Chancellor of the central university respectively, about it.
“Democracy has been throttled by this VC. He is taking vindictive action against teachers who have the courage to speak up against illegal practices by the university. He wants to silence any dissenting voice. Since his taking over, the atmosphere of the varsity has changed," Students Federation of India (SFI) leader Somnath Sau alleged. Members of the local traders’ association also held a dharna outside the campus, demanding return of the caution money taken from them by the Visva-Bharati authorities in 2020 for setting up stalls in the annual Pous Mela, which could not be held in December due to the pandemic situation.
“Though the Poush Mela was not held, the Visva-Bharati management is yet to return our caution money. We are small businessmen and are reeling under serious financial loss," a spokesman of the trader’s association said.