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Birbhum inquiry backs Amartya Sen on land

According to the land record document sourced by the district administration, Ashutosh Sen was given 138 decimals of land on a long-term lease by Visva-Bharati
Amartya Sen.
Amartya Sen.
File Photo

Snehamoy Chakraborty   |   Calcutta   |   Published 28.01.23, 03:40 AM

An internal inquiry by the Birbhum district administration has debunked Visva-Bharati’s allegation that Nobel laureate Amartya Sen is unauthorisedly occupying land, a senior official has said.

The assessment is based on land records relating to the plot leased out to Amartya Sen’s family by Visva-Bharati in 1943, two years after the death of Tagore who brought the economist’s maternal grandfather, Kshitimohon Sen, to the campus in 1908.


“We have checked the documents available with our land and land revenue department. It was found that 1.38 acres or 138 decimals were leased out to Ashutosh Sen, father of Amartya Sen, in 1943 by Visva-Bharati,” the senior district official said. 

According to the land record document sourced by the district administration, Ashutosh Sen was given 138 decimals of land on a long-term lease by Visva-Bharati.

The central university contends that only 125 decimals, not 138 decimals, were leased out to the Sen family. The varsity has sent a fresh letter to Sen, warning him of “embarrassment” if he fails to return the land.

The district administration’s finding goes against the claim by Visva-Bharati, which sent a letter to Sen on Tuesday accusing him of unauthorised occupation of a 13-decimal plot on the campus. In the letter, Sen — in whose name the land was mutated in 2006 — was asked to “hand over” the land at the earliest.

“There is no record to prove that the family was given only 125 decimals of land on lease. We have already prepared a report on the basis of available land records and sent it to the highest authorities in the state government,” a source in Bolpur said.

Asked about the records that the district administration had collected from the land department archives, no one from the varsity was available for comment on record. But a varsity official said in private that “the records available with us (since the time of Ashutosh Sen) show that they got 125 decimals on lease and that’s our bone of contention”. He added that the mutation document also corroborated the varsity’s claim.

But a district administration official said: “While conducting the inquiry, we found another land record, dating back to the early 1970s, which also establishes Ashutosh Sen as the lessee of a 138-decimal plot in Santiniketan.... We don’t know what is the basis of Visva-Bharati’s claim as these land records are sacrosanct for us.”

While the district administration concluded its inquiry and stood firmly behind Sen, the Visva-Bharati authorities sent a second letter to the Nobel laureate asking him to hand over the land.

“You are in possession of 1.38 acre (138 decimals) of land which is in excess of your legal entitlement of 1.25 acre (125 decimals). Kindly return the land to Visva-Bharati as early as possible since the application of the laws of the land will cause embarrassment to you and also to Visva-Bharati which you endear so much. As you know, the procedure for reclamation of illegally-occupied land follows the well-established laws of the land,” the letter issued by the varsity’s estate department, dated January 27, reads.

Many believe that the allegation against Sen is an attempt by vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty to harass the economist, a fierce critic of the Narendra Modi government.

Chakrabarty, since his appointment as the VC in November 2018, has been at the centre of multiple controversies.

Multiple sources on the campus said that the VC’s tenure had recently come under the scanner of the Union education ministry.

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