Monday, 30th October 2017

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Plan to change Basanta Utsav ‘tandav’ date

Officials believe that the crowd would be much less if Basanta Utsav is held on a day other than Holi.

By Snehamoy Chakraborty in Santiniketan
  • Published 7.06.19, 3:03 AM
  • Updated 7.06.19, 3:03 AM
  • 3 mins read
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A dance performance during Basanta Utsav. Telegraph file picture

Visva-Bharati is planning to dissociate Basanta Utsav from Holi from next year because the university and the police do not have the wherewithal to manage such a huge gathering.

The number of people visiting Santiniketan to attend Basanta Utsav has been increasing steadily over the past few years and this year, the university town burst at the seams as over 2.5 lakh people converged from across Bengal and the rest of the country on March 21.

The massive crowds and a large number of cars choked Santiniketan, perpetrated a traffic nightmare and created law-and-order problems.

Visva-Bharat, on whose campus Basanta Utsav is held, earlier this week decided to no longer organise Pous Mela, the other tourist spectacle of Santiniketan, because of lack of infrastructure and difficulty in conforming to green rules.

Senior Visva-Bharati officials said that even though no official order had been issued, the university was were determined to change the date of Basanta Utsav from next year.

“We have discussed the issue with our teachers and employees. In view of the chaos during Basanta Utsav this year, we are planning to change the date of the event. If everything goes according to plan, Basanta Utsav could be held on a purnima (full-moon night) in February, and not on the day of Holi,” said Anirban Sircar, the public relations officer of Visva-Bharati.

Officials believe that the crowd would be much less if Basanta Utsav is held on a day other than Holi.

“We welcome those who love Santiniketan and Basanta Utsav. But our vice-chancellor has said he will not allow people who come here to create chaos,” a Visva-Bharati official said.

Basanta Utsav, the festival of colours during which Visva-Bharati organises cultural programmes centred around the works of Rabindranath Tagore, was started in 1905.

The Visva-Bharati authorities faced flak for the handling of the crowd at Basanta Utsav this year. Several alumni and visitors took to social media to vent their dissatisfaction.

Visva-Bharati sources said over 2.5 lakh people crammed the Basanta Utsav grounds, making it impossible for the university administration and the police to control them properly.

Many visitors climbed the iron fences bordering the compound. Over a dozen elderly visitors fell ill because of the huge crowd and the sultry weather.

Traffic movement on all roads in Santiniketan virtually came to a standstill for over six hours. Many visitors questioned the arrangements.

At a meeting with teachers and officials of Visva-Bharati on Tuesday during which the university decided to disassociate itself with Pous Mela, vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty also proposed that the Basanta Utsav date be changed.

“It was not Basanta Utsav this year, it was Basanta tandav (chaos). We will from now organise Basanta Utsav on a purnima day in February,” a senior official quoted the VC as saying at the meeting.

Varsity officials and a section of Santiniketan residents believe that so many people attend Basanta Utsav because it is organised on Holi.

“Now Holi and Basanta Utsav have become synonymous to a large number of people. We saw hundreds of drunk youths at the festival this year. Many of them tried to smear colour on our girl students without their consent. During the cleaning of the ground, we found 35 bags of liquor bottles,” a senior Visva-Bharati official said.

“Basanta Utsav was started in 1905 by Rabindranath Tagore’s youngest son Shamindranath. Later, the festival used to be organised by Rabindranath on different dates during spring. So, if Visva-Bharati organises Basanta Utsav on any day other than Holi, tradition will not be violated. We will welcome such a decision,” said Sabujkali Sen, a senior Visva-Bharati teacher and former officiating vice-chancellor.

Santiniketan residents and Tagore researchers said they would support a move to change the date of Basanta Utsav.

Several elderly residents of Santiniketan said that till the 1950s, hardly 500-700 people, mostly students and teachers of Visva-Bharati, used to participate in the programme.

Tagore researcher Amitrasudan Bhattacharya said: “It (Visva-Bharati) is thinking about organising Basanta Utsav on any day other than Holi. I hope the chaos that we witness on the day will no longer be there then.”

However, traders and hoteliers in Bolpur and Santiniketan said they would be affected if Visva-Bharati changed the date.

“Basanta Utsav and Pous Mela are the main events in Santiniketan. We make good profits during this time and this sustains us for the rest

of the year. If Pous Mela is stopped and Basanta Utsav is held on another date, we will face huge losses,” said Prosenjit Chowdhury, secretary of the Bolpur Hoteliers’ Association.