Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty on Monday wrote to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, requesting her to return a 2.9km-long road that her government took over in 2021 from the university after a group of Santiniketan residents accused varsity authorities of not letting them use it.
In his letter, Chakrabarty claimed the return of the road to the varsity was important to safeguard the area announced as a World Heritage Site by Unesco on September 17.
“This is an earnest request to return the road that you took back just before the Assembly poll in 2021 and put it under the PWD (public works department).... In view of the Santiniketan’s recognition as a World Heritage site, we have now a greater responsibility to safeguard the heritage site. I earnestly request you to help us maintain the Ashram area and retain the tag for us and also for posterity,” the VC wrote.
He also referred to the Archeological Survey of India report stating that curbs on vehicles were important to save the heritage site.
During her administrative meeting in December 2020, Mamata announced taking back the road from Visva-Bharati after some residents wrote to her that the Chakrabarty-led varsity administration harassed them over its use.
The road, earlier with the state government, was handed over to Visva-Bharati in 2017 after an appeal from the then varsity administration.
A section of Santiniketan residents, including the Tagore family descendants, said the road should be maintained and manned by the state government and claimed the VC’s efforts to take it back from the state would only lead to fresh harassment for people.
“The state government has far better infrastructure to control vehicles on the road than Visva-Bharati. Our chief minister Mamata Banerjee is much more responsible for Santiniketan’s heritage than the current VC. If he gets the road back, he will again prevent us from using it. The VC’s track record in manning the road is not satisfactory. We would like to request the chief minister not to listen to him,” said Sudripta Tagore, a Tagore family descendant.
A senior state government official pointed out that Mamata designed the ring road around the campus to bypass vehicles and save the heritage structure.
“The state can curb traffic if needed to safeguard the heritage structure. There is no logic behind giving the road back to Visva-Bharati,” he said.