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HomePoliticsIndiaTagore was an outsider in Bolpur when he set up Visva Bharati:...

Tagore was an outsider in Bolpur when he set up Visva Bharati: VC


In the middle of the row at Visva Bharati in Bolpur, West Bengal, over a move to fence the Poush Mela ground, Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty, accused often of bringing in “outsiders” to defend his decision, has said even Rabindranath Tagore had come to Bolpur from outside to set up the institute.

Chakraborty’s “outsider” remark was apparently a rejoinder aimed at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had recently said, “Outsiders were present during the construction of the boundary wall on Poush Mela ground, an action not in consonance with Tagore’s ideals of education in the lap of nature.”

The VC, in a statement on 22 August, said Bolpur was just a small town in colonial Bengal and “it was Tagore and his colleagues from outside who helped set up Visva Bharati there and consolidated the univarsity as one of the most innovative pedagogical centres in the world”.

“Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore was an outsider himself; had he not taken a liking to the area, Visva-Bharati wouldn’t have evolved. Besides, Gurudev and his colleagues paved the way for Visva Bharati to develop as a hub of knowledge creation and dissemination,” Charkaborty said adding “there is a sustained endeavour to alienate, exclude, and ostracise those colleagues who are from outside Bolpur or West Bengal by labelling them as outsiders who are not emotionally equipped to become true Rabindrik (Tagoreans).”

“History has shown that many of our colleagues who came from outside gradually became immersed in the cultural tradition that Visva-Bharati represents,” our New correspondent reports quoting the VC.

Chakraborty said Poush Mela ground, which was acquired by the Visva Bharati 60 years ago, did not bear the heritage tag which has been conferred on the institute established by the Nobel Laureate poet. He said allegations of impudence against its authorities were “bereft of truth”.

“The Poush Mela ground was not a part of the ashram founded by Rabindranath Tagore’s father Maharshi Devendranath Tagore; it does not have the heritage label. In India, the ‘heritage’ status is given only after a building or precinct has existed for more than 100 years. Poush Mela started here 20 years after Gurudev Tagore’s death,” Chakraborty said.

A section of students and local people had said that the Poush Mela venue was an integral part of the institution and charged the university authorities with insolence for its attempt to “block” the ground from the general public.

Pointing out that walls already exist on two sides of the ground, the VC maintained the southern and eastern periphery has remained unfenced.

The fencing work was to be undertaken “as per central government/UGC directives and CAG (Indian government’s top auditor) special security audit recommendations,” Chakraborty stated.

“We have to comply with the National Green Tribunal’s orders on creating a barricaded and self-contained mela venue, separated from the rest of the campus, particularly the academic and residential areas,” he reiterated.

Trouble had erupted at the central institute on 24 August last when thousands of locals ransacked its property and tore down the main gate to protest against the fencing work. Several people also vandalised the construction equipment on the Poush Mela ground.

Visva Bharati authorities closed the university indefinitely blaming a Trinamool Congress lawmaker and some local ruling party leaders for the violence. The university also said it will remain closed until the perpetrators are brought to book.

Describing the 17 August campus as a case of “plain and simple, muscle-flexing at the behest of a select group of people”, the VC said the incident does not go with the espoused traditions that Tagoreans proudly nurture.

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