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Speeches cut short, guests turned away
- Dispute and discord mar campus anniversary bash

Mismanagement, dissatisfaction and protest marked Tuesday's concluding ceremony of the weeklong celebrations of Calcutta University's 150th anniversary.

While a former vice-chancellor stayed away from the function as a mark of protest, another was stopped when he tried to narrate his 'grievous' experience as a teacher in the university.

A large number of non-teaching staff owing allegiance to anti-CPM unions, including the Congress-controlled Intuc, also struck a note of dissent. They boycotted the programme as the authorities had 'only invited supporters of Citu'.

Even invitations were no guarantee of access to the venue, the Centenary Hall on the College Street campus, as many senior teachers found out. They were turned away from the gate.

There was confusion at the end of the ceremony, with the dignitaries walking off the stage, leaving the 2,500-strong audience standing for the rendition of the national anthem. The invitation mentioned that the programme would end with the anthem.

More glaring was the absence of former vice-chancellor Santosh Bhattacharya from the dais. He had become a controversial figure during his term in the late 1980s after dismissing five non-teaching employees for irregularities in their appointments.

During his speech, Sushil Mukherjee, another vice-chancellor known to raise his voice against the CPM's education policy, chose to reminisce about how 'pained' he was when the authorities had rejected his application for a year's leave to visit Indonesia on a Unesco assignment.

As the academician tried to proceed with his speech, registrar Samir Banerjee asked him to stop as his 'time was over'.

Ramendra Kumar Podder, one of the three vice-chancellors who attended the programme, likened the university to a dead elephant. 'Mora haati laakh taka' (Even a dead elephant is worth lakhs) was his considered evaluation of the current state of the institution.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, state higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty and mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya attended the function.

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