A reign of terror has descended on Tagore’s abode of peace, noted historian and former vice chancellor of Visva-Bharati (VB) Rajat Kanta Ray has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urging him to intervene before the situation worsens further. A copy has also been sent to the President of India, who is the paridarshak (visitor) to the institution.
Ray has alleged that the urine licking scandal and the subsequent arrest of the victim’s parents are but a fallout of the policy of persecution of the authorities and is just a tip of the iceberg of the reign of terror they have unleashed in the ashram through transfers, suspensions and termination of service.
Incidentally, the prime minister’s office did not take kindly to a VB enquiry report that tried to cover up the urine-licking incident on July 7.
Ray’s letter, written in mid-July, assumes significance as never has any VC written to the chancellor against his successor. The VC, Sushanta Duttagupta however, chose to remain silent to HT’s queries.
The chancellor of the 94-year old institution is the prime minister himself, and Singh had chosen Ray (VC between 2006 and 2011) to undertake a series of reforms leading to Tagore’s 150 anniversary in 2011. Ray is now professor emeritus of Presidency University.
Ray lashed out at the current vice chancellor accusing him of cosying up to the bosses of the Adhyapak Sabha (teacher’s association) and the Karmi Sabha (employee association).
“This type of violent regime change is unprecedented in the history of Visva Bharati. No previous Vice Chancellor has made these wholesale and vindictive changes. The punishments meted out to those associated with the previous administration are all part of the terrorizing and vindictive policy which has resulted in the parents of the girl being put in the police lock-up. If you summon a list of transfers, suspensions and terminations of service by the present Visva Bharati administration, you will immediately sense for yourself the reign of terror let loose on the Ashram by the authority,” Ray has written to Singh in a five-page letter.
Ray was succeeded by Sushanta Duttagupta in September 2011, who has allegedly transferred, suspended and sacked employees in large numbers. VB sources told HT there are no instances of a former VC writing to the chancellor.
A paragraph of Ray’s letter reads, “The High Level Committee (HLC) report on Visva Bharati, which is known in Santiniketan as ‘the Manmohan Singh-Gopal Gandhi Plan’, emphasizes the Tagorean ideal of self reliance; the Ashrama should try and solve its own problems without resort to the government, not to speak of the police. Violently departing form that ideal, the Visva Bharati authorities have lodged a complaint with the police against the parents of a small hostel girl, compelled to lick her own urine… The parents went to the hostel to rescue their distressed daughter, and in consequence they spent a terrifying time in police lock up.”
Ray has alleged the fate of the urine-licking victim’s parents is not an isolated act. “They are resolved to cow the Ashrama down, and to terrorise the academic staff, non-teaching staff, the students and the Ashramites into submission. To implement this policy, the authorities have taken on board the bosses of the Adhyapak Sabha and the Karmi Sabha.”
The former VC also alleged that by keeping the office of the pro-vice chancellor’s office vacant, it has been ensured that Duttagupta enjoys absolute powers.
Ray has also written how all efficient officers who helped in the effective implementation of HLC plan and time-bound expenditure of the Rs 100 crore the PM gave VB were transferred, some of them twice and even thrice. He has also given examples of a bright finance officer Sugata Chatterjee being sent to the publications division, special officer of Rabindra Bhavan Nilanjan Banerjee wrongfully suspended and museum enthusiast Pruba Banerjee packed off to Kolkata as a telephone operator.
Ray’s letter has also alleged that authorities have even barred Nilanjan Banerjee from entering Rabindra Bhavan, trying to prevent him from writing a book on Nehru, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi for which the PM himself has written a foreward. They also complained against him to the central vigilence cell (MHRD) that refused to entertain the complaint, Ray wrote.
Highlights of the letter
VB authorities have transferred/suspended dozens of efficient officials/employees who helped implement the Manmohan Singh-Gopal Gandhi plan
The university terminated two expat professors bringing curtains on foreign teachers in VB
The complaint to the police leading to the arrest of the urine-licking victim is but a part of the high-handedness of the authorities
The VC has surrendered before the union of the employees and that of the teachers
VB tried to prevent an employee from writing a book on Nehru, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi for which manmohan wrote the foreword
The office of the Pro-VC has been kept empty to enjoy unbridled powers