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Since 1st March, 1999
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Girls too hot to handle, registrar flees

Santiniketan, Jan. 7: The Visva-Bharati girls virtually shouted down registrar Samit Roy today when he told a condolence meeting that Saswati Pal’s murder could have been prevented had the university known beforehand that it was about to happen.

“If only we knew about the possibility an hour in advance,” Roy said and a Sangit Bhavan student responded with: “Sir, if we knew it an hour earlier, we would have waited for the attacker with revolvers in our hand.”

Roy fumbled in his speech at the response but continued with his speech. “The attack was so fierce that I feel it was beyond Visva-Bharati’s abilities to thwart it. The students will have to be careful.”

At this, a fifth-year Kala Bhavan girl said: “You are asking us to be careful? How safe are we? How safe is Visva-Bharati?”

Many more students stood up one by one and hauled up the university for its complete lack of security, exposed by Saswati’s death yesterday.

A resident of Ananda Sadan, where Saswati was shot dead, said: “Our hostel doesn’t even have a warden.”

Unable to cope with the onslaught, Roy handed over the microphone to a teacher and walked away.

“Where are you going sir, leaving us behind?” the students shouted in a chorus in front of Kaach Mandir, where they had assembled after a silent procession across the campus.

The girls also voiced their sense of insecurity before governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, the university’s rector, who arrived here this afternoon.

The governor reached Sangit Bhavan around 3pm, when students were waiting for Saswati’s body to arrive.

Gandhi sat on the floor on the campus and the students sang three Tagore songs for him. There were tears in his eyes when they sang Jibono jokhono shukaye jaye.

Sangit Bhavan principal Ashok Ganguly narrated yesterday’s incident to the governor. After this, Gandhi held an interactive session with the students.

“The campus doesn’t have streetlights everywhere and it is scary walking in the evening,” a student said.

“We complained in writing several times but no action was taken,” said Aishwarya Chowdhury, a fifth-year Kala Bhavan student.

The governor asked the students to send the complaints to him.

Home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray said at Writers’ Buildings that the government had spoken to the Visva-Bharati authorities and sought a report from the district police chief. “There were security lapses on the campus,” he said. “The girls’ hostel should have been adequately protected.”

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