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Land a ruse to harass Amartya Sen for his views: Meeting

Academics, scientists, doctors and actors assembled at a Nandan auditorium braving a thundershower to protest against the 'harassment' of the Nobel-winning economist

Debraj Mitra, Snehamoy Chakraborty Calcutta Published 28.04.23, 05:46 AM
Amartya Sen

Amartya Sen File photo

Land is just an instrument for a regime that wants to target Amartya Sen for his politics, a protest meeting in Calcutta asserted on Thursday.

Academics, scientists, doctors and actors had assembled at a Nandan auditorium braving a thundershower to protest against the “harassment” of the Nobel-winning economist by the Visva-Bharati authorities.


“Amartya Sen’s much-publicised stand was clear before the 2014 general election: that Narendra Modi will not be an ideal Prime Minister,” said Sourin Bhattacharya, former professor of economics at Jadavpur University and one-time student of Sen, who set up the economics department at JU.

“We must also remember Sen’s tenure as chancellor of Nalanda University. After the election, he was forced to leave Nalanda. Since the inception of the (Nalanda) university, Sen had made a lot of mental and intellectual investment in the institution.”

Bhattacharya added: “The powers that be cannot openly say that they have targeted Sen because of his opposition to their policies — at least so far they have not been able to. That is where these 13 decimals come into the picture.”

Visva-Bharati has asked Sen to return 13 decimals (0.13 acre) from the 138-decimal plot on which his ancestral house in Santiniketan, Pratichi, stands. The university claims these 13 decimals are under “unauthorised” occupation by Sen.

On April 19, Visva-Bharati threatened to evict the economist from these 13 decimals if he did not vacate the stretch by May 6.

On Thursday, more than one speaker suggested that the central university was acting at the behest of the ruling party at the Centre. Hounding Sen was part of a larger design with an eye on Bengal, they said.

Sen’s critical positions on issues such as the November 2016 demonetisation, the implementation of the GST, the Citizenship Amendment Act and the political use of the National Register of Citizens have prompted the central government to target him, they said.

“A particular political party and its leaders, some of whom have been coming to Bengal and have promised future trips, have one agenda: to create a division between Hindus and non-Hindus,” said theatre veteran Rudraprasad Sengupta.

“This kind of an agenda and democracy cannot coexist. That is why we need to be alert. We need to keep an eye out for such mischief-mongering, which can assume a much bigger scale.”

Sen moves court

Sen on Thursday approached the Birbhum district judge seeking a stay on Visva-Bharati’s April 19 eviction order.

A source said the plea by Sen’s lawyers was not heard on Thursday but the acting district judge, Sarajit Majumder, scheduled a hearing on May 15. District judge Sudeshna De (Chatterjee) is on leave.

“As the district judge is not present right now, the acting district judge has fixed May 15 for a hearing and directed all the stakeholders, including Visva-Bharati, to participate in the hearing,” district public prosecutor Malay Mukherjee said.

“The court can’t pass any stay order before hearing both sides as Visva-Bharati has already filed a caveat before the same court.”

The development comes within 24 hours of chief minister Mamata Banerjee extending support to Sen and vowing to stage a sit-in outside Pratichi if Visva-Bharati tried to “bulldoze” the property.

Visva-Bharati had initiated a legal process in March this year to evict Sen under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971, which allows central government institutions to evict encroachers.

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