Monday, 30th October 2017

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At Tagore’s abode, VC speech too hot to tape

An undergraduate student of the history department was spotted recording the VC’s speech

By Snehamoy Chakraborty in Santiniketan
  • Published 29.01.20, 3:20 AM
  • Updated 29.01.20, 3:20 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty (File photo)

Visva-Bharati has evicted a student from his hostel on the charge of video-recording vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty’s Republic Day speech in which he was heard making comments on the Constitution in the backdrop of the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

“Today, those who are opposing the CAA are reading the Preamble. But this Constitution was drafted by ‘minority’ votes. (Only) 293 people met at the Constituent Assembly and drafted the Constitution. If you read papers of that time, (you will find) many people opposed it. Now that has become the Vedas for us. Preamble has become the Vedas. But if we do not like (the Preamble), we, who are voters and form Parliament, will change it…,” Chakraborty was heard saying on the clip.

After a controversy broke out over the VC’s speech, the security department was asked to check the CCTV footage on the campus and identify the person who had shot the video.

An undergraduate student of the history department was spotted recording the VC’s speech on his smartphone. The student was questioned by varsity officials on Monday night and served notice to leave the hostel.

The Telegraph is not identifying the student as he is too scared to speak on the issue and fears for his future. The student, who vacated his room on Tuesday morning and left for his home, said over the phone: “As I have been directed to leave the hostel, I have come to my home. Now I have to live in a rented house.… Please don’t call me as I don’t want to be involved in such issues as that can create more problems for me.”

Asked about the reason for the eviction, Anirban Sircar, the varsity’s officiating public relations officer, said: “Initially, we have identified the student involved in recording the video. According to the hostel’s code of conduct, the proctor has taken disciplinary action against him.”

Asked what the varsity’s code of conduct for hostel inmates says, he declined to elaborate.

In his letter, which was handwritten and did not carry the university’s letterhead, proctor Sankar Majumder asked the student to vacate the hostel room within 24 hours of receiving the notice.

The student has been accused of circulating a video which was “disruptive and defamatory and may be termed as circumspect of the Indian IT (information and technology) Act”.

“As per your confession regarding recording and forward transmission of the video shot on your mobile phone of the vice-chancellor’s speech at PPSBH (Purba Pally Senior Boys’ Hostel) on the occasion of Republic Day flag hoisting, which was later used to defame the Vice-Chancellor on social media, I am hereby ordering you to immediately vacate your hostel room,” the proctor’s notice served on the student late on Monday stated.

A teachers’ body, the Visva-Bharati University Faculty Association, has condemned the eviction from the hostel.

“The eviction of the student violates the fundamental right of expression as the VC’s speech was made in the public domain, and not in the personal domain. Therefore, it cannot be a violation of the IT Act. We condemn such eviction of a student from his hostel,” said Sudipta Bhattacharyya, president of the teachers’ association.

The teachers’ association also condemned the way in which the student was evicted.

“The way the student was evicted was highly condemnable. The proctor issued his one-page handwritten order (without any letterhead and seal but duly approved by the ‘competent authority’) where the video was considered as ‘disruptive and defamatory’. In the same video, nothing was added over and above the VC’s speech. If there is some ‘disruptive and defamatory’ content, the VC himself is responsible...,” the association said.

SFI leader Somnath Sow said: “We demand that the notice be withdrawn and the student be allowed to return to the hostel.”