Attack on Visva-Bharati inexcusable, wall issue needs better handling: Former VCs

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Amid the ongoing controversy over fencing the Poush Mela ground at Visva-Bharati, two former vice-chancellors of the central university condemned the vandalism on the campus but maintained that their successor could have handled the situation in a much better way.

Two former VCs Rajat Kanta Ray and Sujit Kumar Basu said that the incident was an “aggression on ideals and values of the university”, founded by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

Basu said locals should have been taken into confidence by the present authorities of the institute before the commencement of the fencing work.

“It was an attack on Visva-Bharati and aggression which was inexcusable and unpardonable. There had been major incidents like theft of Tagore’s Nobel medallion and the murder of a girl student in the past.

“But the latest incident was very dangerous, it was an attack on Visva-Bharati,” Ray, an eminent historian, told PTI.

Basu said erecting any boundary wall around the venue of Poush Mela, an annual cultural event which started more than a century ago, was against the thinking of Tagore who believed in the integration of man and nature, not separating them by building walls.

Ray said if present Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty thinks fencing the Poush Mela ground is the need of the hour in the wake of the allegations of illegal activities in the area after dusk, he should “go ahead with the project but in a careful manner”.

Ray, who helmed the institute for several years since 2006, said the August 17 campus violence might have been orchestrated by external elements or a section of local businessmen.

“Instead of a wall, let there be transparent fencing which I had seen abroad and in some places in India for unhindered view. I think that is technically feasible,” he said.

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

Basu, who was the vice chancellor of the university from 2001 to 2006, said he was pained by the demolition of a gate of the campus by vandals, which retained the unique architectural characteristics of Visva-Bharati.

“It is disturbing to think that some outsiders will inflict damage on the institute founded by Gurudev. I remember having built that gate which was designed by renowned architect Arunendu Bandyopadhyay. This should not have happened,” Basu said.

He said the incumbent vice chancellor had “not properly handled the issue and didn’t take people into confidence while going ahead with the boundary wall construction”.

“His plans were contrary to Gurudev’s vision to have open space so that the mind is not fettered,” he said.

The heritage university was shut down indefinitely on Monday following the campus violence.

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”.

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