Some prominent faces of Bengal’s civil society, under the banner of two social outfits, have lined up protests in Santiniketan next week against the recent move of Visva-Bharati to evict Amartya Sen from a stretch of his ancestral home Pratichi.
The Samajik Marjada Raksha Samiti or Society for Social Justice, a platform of academics, doctors, authors and scientists, will host an event on May 5 morning near Pratichi in Santiniketan.
Visva-Bharati and Santiniketan Banchao Committee (Save Visva-Bharati and Santiniketan) will hold its protest on May 6 and 7 at the same site.
Members of both outfits said the protests would involve common people, the tribal community, students and teachers. The protests will also include cultural events, holding aloft the ideology of Rabindranath Tagore for the Santiniketan that he envisaged.
Both the organisations had earlier held protest meetings in Calcutta. However, members of both the organisations said they had decided to take their protests to Santiniketan to mount pressure on Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty, who, they believe, is harassing the economist to please his bosses in Delhi. The Nobel laureate has been critical of the Narendra Modi government and its policies.
“The attempt to oust Amartya Sen is the latest addition to the list of the wrongdoings of the current Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty, who has ruined the cultural heritage of Tagore. We will organise protest events (in Santiniketan) with people from all sections of the society,” said Manojit Mandal, a faculty member of Jadavpur University and a convener of the Visva-Bharati Santiniketan Banchao Committee.
This outfit, known to be close to Trinamul, includes personalities such as painter Shuvaprasanna and economist Abhirup Sarkar at the helm. Its decision to stage the protest near Sen’s ancestral home comes in the backdrop of a recent statement by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who told journalists that she would sit in front of Pratichi if Visva-Bharati planned to “bulldoze” it.
“What have they (the Centre) been doing while Amartya Sen is being attacked every day? I have seen the audacity, they (Visva-Bharati) will bulldoze Amartya Sen’s house. If they bulldoze Amartya Sen’s house, I will sit there. I will fight against that,” Mamata told a news meet at Nabanna on April 26.
Mamata’s fierce attack on the Visva-Bharati authorities came at a time when the central varsity officials issued an eviction notice asking Sen to return 13 decimals or 0.13 acre from the 138-decimal plot on which Pratichi stands.
The varsity issued the notice on April 19, claiming that 13 decimals of the plot were under Sen’s “unauthorised” occupation.
The Samajik Marjada Raksha Committee, which includes physicist Bikash Sinha, theatre veteran Rudraprasad Sengupta, gastroenterologist Abhijit Chowdhury, retired bureaucrat and author Anita Agnihotri and professor of economics Achinta Chakraborty, also plans to stage Tagore’s drama Raktakarabi as part of their protest near Pratichi.
“We will go to Santiniketan to protest against how Amartya Sen was attacked, harassed and humiliated. Pratichi is not merely the ancestral home of Amartya Sen but it is a symbol of ‘free thinking’ and the pursuit of knowledge...,” said Chowdhury. “We are going there to urge the common people to assemble and save a prestigious place of this country,” he added.