Mamata Banerjee backs Amartya Sen, gives land documents
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday corroborated Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s assertion that he is the rightful lessee of 1.38 acres in Santiniketan and handed him old land records that were with the state government.
The documents are related to the lease that Visva-Bharati had given to the economist’s father Ashutosh Sen in 1943.
At a time the central varsity, run by vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty, has accused Sen of unauthorised occupation of 13 decimals of land, Mamata went straight to Sen’s home, Pratichi, after reaching Birbhum and spoke to him for over 40 minutes.
“He is a Nobel Prize winner. He made Bengal and the whole country proud. I would urge the BJP not to disrespect him,” the chief minister told reporters while coming out of Sen’s ancestral home.
“Visva-Bharati had sent him a letter.... I had seen it in the media. I was waiting for a report from the land department as I wanted to comment based on facts. They had shown disrespect to him and I presented him some papers (related to the lease) with respect,” Mamata added.
After the meeting, Sen also emerged from his home and spoke to reporters separately.
“Mamata Banerjee came and discussed the history of the disputed land, from which there are attempts to evict.... Based on her assessment of the history, she thinks her opinion is broadly similar to that of mine,” said the economist.
During the meeting with Sen, Mamata proposed to bring him under Z-plus security cover and the district police swung into action to enhance the arrangements.
The chief minister reached Santiniketan this afternoon on a four-day trip during which she will take part in both political and government programmes in Birbhum, Malda and East Burdwan before returning to Calcutta on February 2.
When Mamata reached Sen’s home, she was armed with several land-related documents — CS (cadastral settlement in the early 1900s), RS (revisional settlement after 1956) and LR (land record after 1984).
Sources close to Mamata said that the chief minister decided to intervene in the matter as she realised that the repeated attacks on Sen were causing outrage among the people of the state.
Several people on the campus believe that Chakrabarty, who has often been accused of pursuing an agenda to saffronise the varsity, chose to attack Sen, a fierce critic of the Narendra Modi government, to please his political masters in Delhi.
Mamata did not name the vice-chancellor during her media interaction but she sent out a message to Delhi. “I would like to urge the central education ministry to look into what’s happening here.... Atrocious, terrible... this cannot be tolerated. It can’t be the case that they would turn a blind eye if someone is a BJP supporter,” Mamata said.
The comment made it apparent that she was displeased with the Visva-Bharati authorities not only over the land occupation slur on Sen but also with the overall state of affairs at the central university.
“Students and teachers are often suspended without any reason.... At times, they don’t even allow local police to enter the campus. What are they trying to achieve?” she asked.
The chief minister will meet a section of students and teachers on Tuesday.
Multiple sources on the campus said that the row over the varsity’s land allegation against Sen has put Chakrabarty, already under the Centre’s scanner for complaints against him, in a difficult situation.
In a Facebook post, Anupam Hazra, former BJP MP from Bolpur, wrote that if the chief minister’s comments about the land records of Sen were true, Chakrabarty should tender an apology to the veteran economist.
In her closing remarks, Mamata said: “Those who disrespect Sen, one day they will have to tender an apology to him.... They may like to take the battle to the court, but I would like to remind them that there is also the people’s court.”