Supriya Tagore, an octogenarian member of Rabindranath Tagore’s family, on Sunday joined the protest near Amartya Sen’s Santiniketan home Pratichi against the Visva-Bharati university’s alleged harassment of the Nobel laureate economist over a tiny track of land.
“It is a matter of great sadness that a preeminent person like Amartyada, revered around the world, is having to deal with such disrespect, humiliation and disdain from Visva-Bharati. I am really shocked to witness Visva-Bharati’s continuous measures to harass him. There is no reason to snatch a tiny portion of land that has remained in his family’s posession for decades. They are doing it only to disturb him,” Supriya Tagore said while addressing around 500 people at the protest site. He was at the protest with his son, Sudipta Tagore.
Supriya Tagore is a great-grandson of Satyendranath Tagore, elder brother of Rabindranath Tagore. Satyendranath Tagore, the first Indian ICS officer, was also a poet, composer, author, social reformer and linguist.
Since Saturday, people from various walks of life have joined the movement against Visva-Bharati’s attempts to evict Sen from a stretch of land in the compound of his ancestral home. A group of tribal people from the proposed Deocha-Pachami coalmine area, who are against the Trinamul Congress, have also come to show their solidarity with the economist.
The protest that began on Saturday is being organised by the Visva-Bharati Banchao Committee (Save Visva-Bharati Committee). Although initially the plan was to hold the protest for two days, it was extended till May 9 (Baisakh 25 in the Bengali calendar), the 163rd birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, following instructions from chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
The organisers said the protest, already unprecedented in scale, had taken a wholly new dimension after members of the Tagore family joined it.
The central university has accused Sen of occupying without authorisation a 13-decimal (0.13-acre) plot of land, and issued an eviction order that Calcutta High Court has stayed till a pending case is over.
“I wish Visva-Bharati will now deter themselves from such wrongdoing,” said Supriya Tagore, 84, a former principal of Patha Bhavana, one of the schools of Visva-Bharati.
He said Sen was a foremost face of Santiniketan who had participated in various socio-cultural events long before he became a globally lauded economist.
Many who live in Santiniketan have seen Sen going around the villages, bylanes and tribal hamlets in and around Santiniketan on his bicycle till even a decade ago. He has always made it a point to visit his Santiniketan home whenever he has found time.
“I have known Amartyada since my childhood as he is very close to all of us who grew up in Santiniketan. He had been closely associated with the cultural events of Santiniketan during his days here. Later, he won the Nobel Prize and became world famous. This is really unexpected, having to witness the authorities’ attacks on him,” Supriya Tagore said.
Shantabhanu Sen, a cousin of Amartya Sen, said it was beyond their imagination that such a massive protest would be held in support of the family.
“Everybody knows why our respected economist is being attacked by Visva-Bharati. It was beyond our imagination that such a massive protest would be organised, with the participation of thousands of people. We are really grateful to all those who have come to support Amartya Sen,” he said.
Visva-Bharati has closed down its Rabindra Bhavana museum for the weekend without citing any reason, causing disappointment to tourists. Many suggested that the varsity closed the museum because of the ongoing protest.
A senior varsity official pointed out that shutting the museum for the weekend had not only caused harassment to tourists but also financial losses to the Visva-Bharati exchequer.
“The decision to close the museum is a part of the anti-people policies of the current varsity administration,” said painter Jogen Chowdhury, who participated in the protest.