Visva-Bharati conflict: Mamata hands records to Amartya Sen, says ‘proves his own’

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met Nobel laureate Amartya Sen at his residence in Bolpur on Monday and handed him documents regarding the lands on which he had received notices from Visva-Bharati University.

Mamata also said legal action would be taken over the matter, while ordering ‘Z plus’ security to Senator Visva-Bharati is a central university and is unique in having the prime minister as its chancellor. Vice Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty said they would take the matter to court.

On January 24, the university authorities sent a letter to Sen, accusing him of occupying surplus land belonging to the university which had been rented to his father – at Shantiniketan in Bolpur in Birbhum district – and demanding that he hand it over to him. Earlier, too, similar notices had been sent to him.

Mamata, who began her four-day neighborhood tour with a visit to Sen’s residence on Monday evening – she will also visit Burdwan and Malda districts – said: “Ora oshonman korche. Amar khub gaye dropped. Tai friend eshechi (They’re insulting you. I felt very bad about it. That’s why I came)… I asked government agents to investigate and get the records. Now it’s proven to be your land. We found the land records. Now no one can interrogate you. They (the university authorities) are lying.

The CM said she would speak to the district magistrate about the legal remedies the government would take, while telling Sen, “I have tolerated this disrespect towards you for a long time. Please don’t worry about all this.

She then ordered the officials present to provide security for Sen Z-plus, with a police camp near his residence.

Speaking to the media later, Mamata spoke of “saffronization” of Visva-Bharati, saying authorities should focus on running the university “smoothly” rather than “suspending students”. “I’m sorry to say this, but there is a saffronization of Visva-Bharati.”

On the ground, the CM said, “Amartya Sen is a Nobel laureate and is respected not only in Bengal but all over the world… The university wrote that Sen had 1.25 acres of land but after reading news reports, we probed and found out the truth. We found documents that say it has 1.38 acres. This proves that Amartya Sen is right.

Sen told the media that he was surprised by the CM’s efforts. “I’m surprised she looked up the old land records and had the zeal… such zeal in a political leader.” About Z-plus security, he said he didn’t know what it was and couldn’t comment on it.

In response to a question, Sen said he did not think the controversy would end although Mamata gave him the land records. “Those who want to drive me out of my house, there is politics in their sights… I prefer a secular point of view. Those who indulge in communal politics cannot accept this.

Sen’s latest advice came shortly after he said in a PTI interview that Mamata had what it takes for a prime minister. The TMC had linked the action against him to his support for the CM.

On Monday, Sen said he didn’t want to speculate on the 2024 election struggle. “But you have to fight to get rid of communal politics. In such a fight, we have reason to join.

In a Jan. 29 press release, the university claimed that of 1,134 acres allocated to it, it found 77 acres encroached on in 2018 and reclaimed 15 acres. “The campaign to evict the illegal occupiers started in response to an order from the Government of India dated November 30, 2017,” he said.

Regarding Sen, the statement adds: “The information and documents shared with Professor Sen in our letters dated 2023-01-24 and 2023-01-27 clearly indicate that the 1.38 acre land is not was ever leased to the late Ashutosh Sen (father of Sen) Only 1.25 acre land was leased to him…Visva-Bharati…asks Professor Sen to do what is necessary to protect his self respect and reputation of the institution.

Visva-Bharati Vice Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty told the Indian Express that they will challenge the case in court and said they have the paperwork to prove their case. “If he (Sen) goes to court, that’s fine. He must present all the documents. The problem will be resolved. There will be no disrespect to him or to us. We don’t feel good no more.

On the CM’s move, Chakraborty said, “The land belongs to the university, not the state government. The land is under lease. It is not private property. We can renew the lease or not renew the lease. But we renewed the lease in 2006. The land is in the name of his father Ashutosh Sen. That’s why we asked him for documents (Sen).

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