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The discovery of Syama Prasad

- Visva teachers mark Jana Sangh founder’s birth anniversary for the first time

Santiniketan, July 6: The Adhyapak Sabha of Visva-Bharati has discovered Syama Prasad Mookerjee 113 years after the Bharatiya Jana Sangh founder and the university took birth.

The teachers’ association of Visva-Bharati today observed Mookerjee’s birth anniversary for the first time.

A section of teachers of the varsity — which came into being in 1901, five months after Mookerjee was born — saw in the move an attempt to send a “positive” message to the BJP at a time the party is in power at the Centre. The BJP traces its ideological roots to the Jana Sangh.

Members of the Adhyapak Sabha, an apolitical organisation that “traditionally has had Congress leanings”, said they observed the birth anniversary of Mookerjee because of the “role” he played when Visva-Bharati got central university status in 1951.

The general secretary of the Adhyapak Sabha, Kishor Bhattacharya, said: “We are observing the birth anniversary of Syama Prasad Mookerjee for the first time for the role he played when Visva-Bharati was given central university status in 1951. Mookerjee spoke in Parliament on Tagore’s vision of the schools (Patha Bhavana and Siksha Satra) in Santiniketan. He had also spoken in favour of Visva-Bharati’s autonomy.”

Asked why it took the Adhyapak Sabha, which looks after teachers’ demands, 63 years to recognise Mookerjee’s contributions, Bhattacharya, a Patha Bhavana teacher and former state Congress secretary, said: “There is always a first time.”

Bhattacharya suggested the Adhyapak Sabha was open to supporting the BJP. “If there is a proposal from senior BJP leaders about supporting them, we will think about it. But observing S.P. Mookerjee’s birth anniversary has nothing to do with politics,” the teacher said, asked whether marking the Jana Sangh founder’s birth anniversary was a step towards moving closer to the BJP.

Another member of the Adhyapak Sabha was more forthcoming. “We feel that by observing Mookerjee’s birth anniversary, the Adhyapak Sabha wants to send the message to the BJP that it is willing to align itself with the party,” the teacher said.

Another Adhyapak Sabha member said that as Visva-Bharati was a central university and the BJP was at the helm in Delhi, it “might not be prudent” to project an image that the teachers’ outfit was inclined towards the Congress. Manmohan Singh’s term as Visva-Bharati chancellor ends in January next year, following which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will assume the post.

“Allegiance to the BJP could help us fulfil our organisational demands. Many teachers who used to support the Congress are willing to switch allegiance. We think that observing Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s birth anniversary will send a message to the BJP,” the member said.

In May-end, Visva-Bharati had written to Prime Minister Modi, listing the projects the university has implemented recently and those it intends to take up in the near future, in the hope that the government would issue a special grant.

Around half of Visva-Bharati’s 750 teachers are Adhyapak Sabha members.

Bengal BJP president Rahul Sinha said that if the Adhyapak Sabha approached the party for support, “we will consider it”.

“Now, many people are interested in coming close to the BJP or joining the party,” he added.

Today’s programme was held at the SAIL guesthouse on the Visva-Bharati campus. Around 70 teachers participated in it. Two speeches Mookerjee delivered in Parliament on Visva-Bharati were read out by Samit Ray, a professor of botany and member of the Adhyapak Sabha.