All’s not well with Tagore’s Visva Bharati, section of faculty writes to PM

Mar 31, 2021 02:39 PM IST

The letter, which was also shared with the media, said over the past few years, it has become a trend to abuse, insult, even manhandle faculty members, make them hostages and restrict their movement

A group of Visva Bharati faculty members has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over “the deterioration of the atmosphere and culture” of the central university founded by Rabindranath Tagore in West Bengal’s Shantiniketan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (File photo)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (File photo)

“The level of discourse and discussions that all of us have seen recently [has] dropped.... [it] is in no way helping anyone of us; moreover, it is maligning the sanctity of the glorious institution all of us are a part of and is also adversely affecting the overall atmosphere and culture of our institutions,” the group said in the letter with Visva Bharati logo.

The letter, which was also shared with the media, said over the past few years, it has become a trend to abuse, insult, even manhandle faculty members, make them hostages and restrict their movement. It added this is often orchestrated by a particular group of students supported by a section of the faculty association.

A section of the faculty has been at loggerheads with the administration over various measures such as a bar on speaking to the media. The university has also been allegedly politicised as people with political affiliations have been invited to speak on campus.

Also Read | PM, Shah hail Tagore and Netaji’s legacies

“We also are witnessing a new political culture emerging in Visva Bharati where senior faculties are staging protests with students where they too are indulging in malpractices like making derogatory remarks against the institution, office bearers, and other ideological groups,” the letter said.

The letter came days after Visva Bharati vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty was purportedly heard in an audio clip threatening to close down the premier central university. This clip surfaced after protests against Chakraborty by a section of students and faculty members.

The university’s spokespersons could not be contacted for comments on the letter. But another section of the faculty has questioned the letter.

“An officially released press brief with Visva Bharati logo containing 179 signatories raises a big question about how far these signatures are voluntary in nature. Even if voluntary, 179 out of 1,400 staff members is a small section, where again only a handful of faculty members predominantly associated with the administration are signatories and rest are non-teaching staff. Everyone knows who has vitiated the Visva Bharati atmosphere by threatening to close the university and abused the faculty members in filthy language,” said a professor associated with Visva Bharati University Faculty Association (VBUFA).

The professor added a signature campaign by the VBUFA addressing the President and Prime Minister was disrupted by the authorities by confining faculty members for around six hours in February.

Modi, who is the university’s chancellor, addressed its centenary celebration on December 24.

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    Joydeep Thakur is a Special Correspondent based in Kolkata. He focuses on science, environment, wildlife, agriculture and other related issues.

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