From dais, dig at 'elephant'

Actor Soumitra Chatterjee receives an honorary DLitt from VC Anuradha Lohia. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta

Rabindra Sadan: Presidency University held its sixth convocation at the Nandan-III auditorium on Tuesday with a curtailed guest list from which the chancellor dropped out and 700-odd degree holders were excluded.

Vice-chancellor Anuradha Lohia used the convocation dais to call out Hindu Hostel as the "white elephant in the room", saying that the audience should know why the event was being held at Nandan "and not in the Derozio auditorium".

The decision to change the venue of the convocation and restrict its scope to awarding two honorary degrees was taken on Monday afternoon after students protesting the delay in reopening the heritage hostel had locked out the vice-chancellor and her colleagues from the campus.

Scientist C.N.R. Rao received an honorary DSc and actor Soumitra Chatterjee an honorary DLitt at Nandan.

"It is my duty to tell all of you why we are sitting in Nandan," the vice-chancellor said during her vote of thanks. "The protesting students should bear in mind that no one before us thought of repairing the hostel. We re-vetted, replanned (the renovation). All this takes time. We can all wish it to happen today. Do we also wish the accompanying calamity that may happen? As a responsible custodian of this chair, I cannot push the repair till it is safe for people to inhabit the place."

Lohia had promised the students in January that two blocks of the hostel would be ready for reopening by July 15. In a statement put out on the university's website on July 31, she said the public works department had asked for another four to five months to complete the renovation.

The students started a sit-in in front of the vice-chancellor's office on August 1, demanding that both blocks be handed over by September 10.

While the agitation forced the convocation out of Presidency, the choice of alternative venue triggered another dispute.

Governor and chancellor Keshari Nath Tripathi communicated to Lohia on Monday that he wouldn't be attending the event after the university chose Nandan-III as the venue over Raj Bhavan.


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