Visva-Bharati University closes indefinitely following mob rampage

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on August 17, 2020

Visva-Bharati University, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the Chancellor, will close down indefinitely, following rampant vandalism by people allegedly led by a Trinamool Congress MLA.

The vandalism took place on Monday morning after the University authorities decided to construct a boundary wall around a fair-ground.

The fair-ground belongs to the University, and, has been hosting the iconic ‘Pous Mela’, held during December every year. The fair is known to draw international crowds into Bolpur’s Santiniketan, also called Rabindra Nath Tagore’s abode, located 170 km away from Kolkata.

Issuing a late evening statement, the Visva-Bharati authorities said: “Given the volatile situation in the campus, and also the threat to many colleagues….it has been unanimously resolved…to close the University till the situation improves.”

The University authorities added that the “fence was being constructed to honour the verdict of the National Green Tribunal”. The NGT in its order said “a barrier needs to be constructed to demarcate the Mela grounds from the University and locality.”

Mob on a rampage

Trouble began when hundreds of villagers, who claimed they were locals, vandalised the campus and broke-down two of its existing gates. The protesters belonged to an organisation that called itself ‘Mela Prangan Bachao Samity’ (Save Mela Ground Samity).

TV garb has shown a Trinamool Congress MLA being part of the mob.

When asked, he told a private news channel: “People were spontaneously protesting against the Vice Chancellor who has failed to abide by the principles of Gurudev Tagore.”

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she was against any construction at the Visva-Bharati premises as it was not in-sync with the ideas of Tagore.

“However, I have asked the superintendent of police and the district magistrate to hold a meeting with the V-C, the students and other stakeholders, and settle the issue,” she said.

According to Shyam Singh, Superintendent of Police, Birbhum district, eight persons have been arrested while a “suo motu case has been registered”.

Specifically asked about the involvement of a Trinamool Congress MLA, Singh said: “We have not received any specific complaint against the MLA. Neither are we aware of any TV footage of his as of yet.”

Centre’s protection sought

Visva-Bharati University authorities following a meeting added that they were seeking help from the Union HRD Ministry to “arrange alternate security forces in the entire campus”.

This was being done as there was “non-availability of police forces” and the National Volunteer Force (deployed by the State government) as security of the VC was “suddenly withdrawn”.

The authorities have also maintained that the “University’s loss has to be compensated from the miscreants” based on calculations by an agency deployed by the MHRD.

Published on August 17, 2020

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