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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Amartya writes to Visva-Bharati authorities on Pratichi plot 

The Nobel laureate asserted that any 'contrary claim' to the land couldn’t stand till the expiry of the leasehold rights

Snehamoy Chakraborty Calcutta Published 19.04.23, 05:07 AM
Amartya Sen.

Amartya Sen. File Picture

Amartya Sen on Monday night sent a letter to the Visva-Bharati authorities to underline his right to the land of Pratichi, the family's ancestral home, which was in the name of his father Ashutosh Sen.

The Nobel laureate asserted that any "contrary claim" to the plot couldn't stand till the expiry of the leasehold rights.

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Sen's letter is believed to be in response to Visva-Bharati's apparent bid to reclaim 13 decimals of land, which, according to the varsity, are under his "illegal occupation". Last month, varsity authorities initiated a legal process to reclaim the land.

"We have seen a statement issued by some parts of the Visva-Bharati about my ancestral home at Pratichi, Santiniketan, which has been in the possession and regular use of my family since 1943. I am the holder of the land, and it was passed on to me after the death of my parents Ashutosh Sen and Amita Sen. They also purchased other land in close proximity to the leased land," reads Sen's letter addressed to the joint registrar and estate officer of Visva-Bharati.

The letter dated April 17 was mailed to the varsity administration from the US, where he is currently staying. He also wrote he would visit Santiniketan in June.

On April 14, the varsity officials pasted a three-page order on one of the pillars at the entrance of Pratichi to inform Sen that the ongoing legal process — under the provisions of the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Rules, 1971 — to evict him from the "illegally occupied" portion of the plot would be completed on April 19.

Many on the campus viewed the central varsity's move as an attempt to humiliate the acclaimed economist who is now aged 89.

In his short letter to the varsity authorities, Sen, who enjoys the support of the state administration that gave its verdict in his favour, made his position clear.

"The use of the land has remained the same over this long period (in fact, 80 years). Any contrary claim to this leased land before the expiry of the lease cannot stand. The magistrate of the area has noted that the existing arrangement should be recognized and that no interference or breach of peace should be allowed," he wrote.

The letter, a source said, is built on the April 13 order of the Bolpur executive magistrate in which a status quo on Pratichi land was ordered after Sen sought legal protection, apprehending dispossession of some Pratichi land in his absence from the site.

"Though there is a status quo imposed by the court over the Pratichi land, officials pasted the order at the entrance of his home, a gross violation of the order.... The lawyers of Professor Sen sent three letters seeking time from the authorities, but the varsity did not even allow that. Now he has personally informed the varsity about his visit to Santiniketan in June," said a Visva-Bharati faculty member.

A senior varsity official confirmed the receipt of Sen's letter.

"Sen did not seek any time from us in his letter. He just informed us of his next visit to Santiniketan. As of now, we are ready to dispose of the case on Wednesday," the official said, before adding they would issue Sen an eviction notice.

Visva-Bharati wrote to Sen this January, asking him to return 13 decimals of land. After this letter, it sent multiple missives to Sen that while his family was given a long-term lease of 99 years for 125 decimals by the varsity, he had 138 decimals, of which 13 decimals were "unauthorisedly" occupied.

Sen called this charge baseless. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee in January gave him papers to prove his claim on 138 decimals. The state government also transferred land rights to Sen's name.

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