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Presence of BJP faces at Visva-Bharati event raises questions

Many varsity insiders said this was not a first at the varsity and the trend began in vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty’s time

Snehamoy Chakraborty Santiniketan Published 19.08.21, 02:20 AM

Visva-Bharati File picture

Visva-Bharati on Wednesday was mired in controversy yet again after the BJP’s Birbhum unit chief and other BJP workers took part in a varsity event with junior Union education minister Subhas Sarkar, the saffron party’s Bankura MP.

The presence of BJP faces at the varsity event raised questions over whether it was another attempt by Visva-Bharati authorities in the tenure of vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty to saffronise Rabindranath Tagore’s campus.


Sarkar visited Visva-Bharati after his elevation as Union minister of state in the Narendra Modi government. He offered a floral tribute to Tagore’s chair at Rabindra Bhavana and visited sites connected with the polymath, before attending a lecture on the Centre’s National Education Policy organised by Visva-Bharati.

BJP district chief Dhruba Saha, the party’s MLA from Birbhum’s Dubrajpur Anup Saha and other party workers accompanied Sarkar everywhere, including the varsity lecture. The presence of BJP leaders in Visva-Bharati’s official event prompted Trinamul to question Chakrabarty’s alleged attempts to saffronise the central varsity with the Prime Minister as chancellor.

BJP district chief Saha was on the dais of the lecture by Sarkar with VC Chakrabarty.

“A minister may come, but why was the BJP district president in the programme? The VC is actively working to promote the BJP and has turned it (the varsity) into a camp of that party. Now, Trinamul will also organise a political programme inside the varsity,” said Trinamul’s Birbhum unit chief Anubrata Mondal. “The VC has no right to invite political leaders to a varsity programme.”

Many varsity insiders said this was not a first at the varsity and the trend began in Chakrabarty’s time. In 2019, the alleged promotion of saffronisation began by allowing the Rashtriya Kala Manch, an RSS-backed outfit, to hold a workshop in the varsity’s journalism department.

In August 2019, ABVP national-secretary Sunil Ambekar and then state tourism minister Gautam Deb of Trinamul, became the first political leaders to be invited to Halakarshana (ploughing ceremony), started by Tagore in 1929, on Sriniketan campus.

In January 2020, Visva-Bharati organised a lecture to support the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act of the Modi government by Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta, despite student protests.

“Since Chakrabarty came here as the VC, he has been proactively trying to promote the saffron agenda... a desperate bid to ruin the inclusive, secular, cosmopolitan, global culture of Visva-Bharati, built painstakingly by Tagore,” said a senior varsity professor.

Asked about the presence of BJP leaders in the varsity’s event, Sarkar said: “They are human beings too.”

“They came to Visva-Bharati as human beings. Those who came here are educated and did not come here to do politics,” he added.

BJP district chief Saha said he was a “lover of Tagore”, which is why he was there.

The controversy over the presence of BJP leaders in educational institutions continued in Durgapur, where Sarkar went to inaugurate a digital classroom and a library of the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in the afternoon.

Sources said a BJP leaders were there to welcome him, which was unprecedented for the national institution. Sarkar claimed all those who came to the NIT were involved in education and had no connection with politics.

Additional reporting by Abhijeet Chatterjee

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