After considerable back and forth over the possibility of holding the traditional Pous Mela at it original venue at Santiniketan’s Purba Palli ground, the ice seems to have finally broken with the Visva-Bharati authorities agreeing to part with the plot, albeit on certain terms, to the Birbhum district administration which would organize the fair this year.
Although the district administration has been holding the fair at the Dakbangalow ground for the past two years, the return of the fair, which doubles up both as an occupant of emotional space for Visva-Bharati ashramiks as well as a money-spinner for local artisans, to Purba Palli would happen after four years after it was last held at that venue in 2019. The fair is scheduled to commence on the 7th day of Pous (the ninth month of the Bengali calendar) translating to December 24, 2023 and is likely to continue for the next six days.
Sources at Visva-Bharati revealed that the university authorities agreed to temporarily hand over the plot to the Sub Divisional Officer, Bolpur, Ayan Nath, on Monday after the district authorities agreed to all the terms set by the institution in its response to the SDO’s request letter for the plot, save one.
The Visva-Bharati letter to the SDO, dated December 9 and signed by the university’s acting registrar Ashok Mahato, put out nine questions to the district authorities stating that it wouldn’t be having objections to the state administration holding the fair at the said venue if the institution had reassuring answers to those questions. The authorities preferred not to call them “conditions”, only “concerns raised out of its past experiences”.
It’s only to the “concern” of whether the district administration would resolve the pending criminal cases against multiple Visva-Bharati employees booked on the basis of complaints lodged during the fair which happened four years ago that the SDO reportedly replied that administrative interference in sub-judice matters are both “unwarranted” and “unnecessary”. The remaining eight questions, including abiding by conditions laid down by the green tribunal, taking care of legal hurdles if any and shouldering the financial obligations of the fair, were all reportedly agreed to by the administration.
“The university had no business asking the administration to meddle in affairs which are currently judicial considerations,” said Professor Sudipta Bhattacharya, president of the university’s faculty association. “The cases were lodged on the background of an incident of strong-arm tactic deployed by the former vice chancellor and his followers against the stall owners at the fair. They were lodged by individuals who weren’t part of the administration and were cases of loot and vandalism as well as of sexual harassment against specified accused persons. How can the district authorities resolve the cases at its own behest?” Bhattacharya reasoned.
Although Visva Bharati ashramiks and Mela stakeholders had begun nurturing fresh hopes of resumption of the fair at its original venue following the departure of Professor Bidyut Chakraborty, the former vice chancellor who had stopped the fair citing security and administrative reasons, the new dispensation under the newly-appointed interim VC Professor Sanjoy Mallik alongside the Santiniketan Trust had, earlier this month, jointly rejected the possibility of organising the fair this year citing multiple reasons including paucity of time.