Intellectuals hold sit-in near Amartya Sen’s Santiniketan house for second day

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Santiniketan: Intellectuals held a sit-in near the ancestral house of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen here on Saturday protesting against the notice by Visva-Bharati university to the economist to vacate 0.13 acres (5,500 sq ft) of the total 1.38 acres allegedly held by him ‘illegally’ or face eviction.

Rabindranath Tagore’s songs of protest were sung during the sit-in.

Among the intellectuals who took part in the protest, held for the second consecutive day, were film maker Goutam Ghosh, painters Suvaprasanna and Jogen Choudhury.

MS Education Academy

In another podium, set up near by, leaders of the ruling TMC sat in protest. They included state minister Chandranath Sinha, Suri MLA and Birbhum zilla parishad president Bikash Roy Choudhury, Labhpur MLA Abhijit Sinha and Nanoor MLA Bidhan Majhi.
Scores of party activists too sat with them.

The TMC is opposing the Visva-Bharati notice to Sen tooth and nail.

“I have come all the way from Kolkata to voice my protest against the harassment and insult to an internationally respected economist like Amartya Sen, who is among the country’s pride. The way his land issue is being treated by Visva-Bharati authorities is unfortunate as the matter is sub-judice,” Ghosh said.

“This is not the Visva-Bharati we have known. We demand that Amartya babu should not be subjected to such treatment any more,” the filmmaker told PTI over phone.

Sinha said people of Bengal are aghast over the treatment meted out to Sen by the university and the “democratic protest” against it will continue for the next few days.

The protests followed sit-ins by the ‘Committee for Protection of Social Dignity’, which too was held in front of of Pratichi on the same issue on Friday. Tagore’s famed drama ‘Rakta Karabi’ was staged as a mark of protest and local people and Ashramites of Visva-Bharati protested by singing the Bard’s songs.

‘Rakta Karabi’ is a powerful and poignant play where commercial expoitation, oppression, power, love and obsession operate on different levels and manifest themselves in different shades.

Visva Bharati spokesperson Mahua Banerjee said, “The matter is in the court. We respect its order and the law of the land. We have lodged a complaint to the competent authorities.

“Since Section 145 is in force to maintain peace and tranquility in the area near Pratichi, how is such a kind of gathering permissible?”… This will be our response regarding the activities (by the protestors) since May 5, 2023,” she said.

Set up in 1921 by Rabindranath Tagore, Visva-Bharati was declared a university in 1951 and is West Bengal’s only central university. The prime minister is its chancellor.

Calcutta High Court on May 4 gave an interim stay against an eviction order of Visva-Bharati asking Sen to vacate 0.13 acres at his ancestral Santiniketan residence by May 6. An appeal for a stay on possible eviction was fixed for hearing later in the month at a court in Suri.

Visva-Bharati had sent the eviction notice to Sen on April 19, asking him to vacate 13 decimal of the 1.38 acres land of his residence within May 6. The university has been claiming that Sen is in possession of 1.38 acre of land in the Santiniketan campus, which is in excess of his legal entitlement of 1.25 acres.

The economist in his petition to the court said that the 1.38 acres plot on which ‘Pratichi’ stands was given on lease for 99 years to his father Ashutosh Sen in October 1943 by the then Visva-Bharati general secretary Rathindranath Tagore, Gurudev’s son.

Sen had earlier moved a court in Suri against the eviction notice, but the court set May 15 as the date of hearing well after the university’s deadline to vacate the land.

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( With inputs from )

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