Visva-Bharati authorities on Sunday decided not to allow a cultural workshop with the Rashtriya Kala Manch, a wing of RSS student arm Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), with varsity sources saying they had not been aware of the outfit’s background when they approved the two-day programme.
The event had triggered cries of “saffronisation” and a boycott call from sections of students. The Telegraph had carried a report on the controversy on Saturday. “We were not aware about the involvement of such an organisation in the workshop. Once we came to know, we instructed our journalism department not to participate on the varsity’s behalf in such a programme,” said Anirban Sircar, the public relations officer of Visva-Bharati.
“Visva-Bharati will not allow any organisation with a political background to hold programmes on its campus,” Sircar added.
Sources said the “National Art-Cultural-Communication Workshop” — which had been organised jointly by the Manch and the varsity’s journalism and mass communication department — had since been shifted to a private banquet hall in Bolpur town.
Students who would have attended the workshop on the campus were scheduled to get academic credit for their participation.
“The varsity came to know about the nature of the Manch after CPM student wing SFI sent vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty a letter on October 15. The letter threatened a demonstration on the campus if the event was allowed to take place,” said a varsity official.
On Sunday, student organisations welcomed the move, saying it was a positive step in countering the “saffronisation” of campus politics. “We welcome the administration’s move to scrap the event, even if it was late. If it had gone ahead, we would have certainly protested,” said Somnath Sow, an SFI leader in Visva-Bharati.
The report on the seminar that appeared in the October 19 edition of The Telegraph
After the SFI’s move, the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad had come forward in support and decided to write to Chakrabarty and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chancellor of Visva-Bharati, against the alleged attempt to “saffronise” the institution.
Apolitical students had protested on social media, calling for a boycott of the workshop. Several teachers said there would have been no controversy had the Manch held the programme with its own infrastructure.
However, sections of the journalism department said they were divided on whether it was the right move. “Although we cannot get university credits from this event anymore, it seems a few students are still keen on participating in a personal capacity,” said an undergraduate student of journalism.
Biplab Loho Chowdhury, head of the department of the centre for journalism and mass communication, declined comment, pointing out that the varsity was no longer associated with the event.
Sources said ABVP leaders were upset at the eleventh-hour cancellation. “Varsity officials and the VC’s office knew about our organisation. It is very unfortunate that an institution like Visva-Bharati cancelled our programme, caving in to students’ objections. It (the event) was to be on the ideology of Rabindranath Tagore and it would have benefited them,” said Meghnath Das, state convener of the Manch.