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regular-article-logo Monday, 04 March 2024

Visva-Bharati land row: Authorities should prevent abuse of power, says Amartya Sen

The Mamata Banerjee government had stood by the Nobel laureate from the beginning of the controversy three months ago

Snehamoy Chakraborty Calcutta Published 21.04.23, 06:16 AM
Amartya Sen.

Amartya Sen. File photo

Amartya Sen on Thursday said appropriate authorities should be asked to prevent “arbitrary abuse of power” by Visva-Bharati, which had on Wednesday night issued an order to evict the Nobel laureate from 13 decimals of land at his ancestral home Pratichi.

“Visva Bharati has announced that they would like to take away a part of my ancestral property, ‘if need be by use of such force as may be necessary’ — as they have put it,” Sen said in a text message from the US. “We must take note of this threat of violence and ask the appropriate authorities to prevent such arbitrary abuse of power.”

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The university authorities claim that 13 decimals (0.13 acres) of the 138-decimal plot on which Pratichi stands are under “unauthorised occupation” by Sen. In its order, the university said it would use force if the economist did not vacate the stretch within 15 days.

On Thursday, a district land official pointed out that the Bolpur executive magistrate had ordered status quo on the plot. He said the police were watching the plot 24x7 and would prevent the varsity from using any force after 15 days.

The Mamata Banerjee government had stood by Sen from the beginning of the controversy three months ago.

Visva-Bharati had in January sent three letters to Sen asking him to hand over 13 decimals that it said he was occupying without authorisation in addition to the 125 decimals leased to his family.

Mamata had met the economist in Santiniketan in January and handed over land documents that she said refuted the varsity’s claim.

“It’s clear that the agenda is to harass Sen as he is a strong critic of the central government,” a senior faculty member in Visva-Bharati said.

“There has been no reaction from the Union education ministry or anyone from Delhi during the three months the varsity has been harassing him. It’s only chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her government who can take some steps to prevent the mala fide move.”

The district land official said: “They (Visva-Bharati) can take possession of the land only if any higher court dismisses the status quo. Sen can seek the district court’s intervention if the varsity tries to evict him. The shield of the state government is always there.

“The police have been asked to deploy personnel to keep round-the-clock vigil over the plot. If they (varsity authorities) try to use force after 15 days, the police would be there to prevent it.”

Gitikantha Majumdar, a resident handling the issue on Sen’s behalf in his absence, said the eviction order had surprised him.

“The entire 1.38-acre leasehold has already been transferred in his (Sen’s) name by the land department,” he said.

A varsity official said: “We have issued the order and our duty is to wait for the next 15 days. Then you will see the further developments.”

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