Visva Bharati university files police complaint against TMC MLA for vandalism, informs PMO
Visva Bharati university authorities at Santiniketan in Bengal’s Birbhum district lodged a police complaint against a Trinamool Congress (TMC) lawmaker and eight others around midnight on Monday, more than 12 hours after a mob of local residents and shopkeepers vandalized parts of the university over a decision to build a wall.
The mob allegedly demolished two gates of the campus and damaged construction material that was stocked for building the wall around an open ground where an annual fair is held.
The state’s only central university, of which the Prime Minister is the chancellor, named Naresh Bauri, a resident of Bolpur and TMC lawmaker from the district’s Dubrajpur constituency, in the complaint.
The university also sent separate reports on the incident to the Prime Minister’s office and the Union human resource development ministry, teachers told HT. After the vandalism, the university authorities decided to close the campus temporarily.
The district police started a separate suo motu case on Monday afternoon after chief minister Mamata Banerjee intervened. Eight people were arrested for the vandalism. They were produced before the Suri court on Tuesday afternoon.
District police officers said that in its complaint the Visva Bharati authorities stated that the crowd went on the rampage when construction workers were in the process of setting up a wall. The complaint said that guarding the open ground was necessary to protect the environment as ordered by the National Green Tribunal last year.
On Monday, Bauri claimed that he took part in the agitation as a local resident and former student of Visva Bharati and not as TMC leader. “How can Tagore’s university, which was supposed to be a part of nature, be caged behind walls. Local people will never tolerate this,” Bauri said on Monday echoing the local people. He could not be contacted on Tuesday.
Held in end-December, the fair, popularly known as Poush Mela, draws thousands of people and even foreign tourists. Opposed to the wall, local people and a section of traders for whom the fair is a major source of income, had been staging demonstrations since Saturday. Bidyut Chakrabarty, the vice-chancellor, however did not budge from his decision to guard the open ground.
Sunil Singh, a member of the Poush Mela Bachao Committee (save the fair committee) and one of the traders named in the complaint lodged by Visva Bharati, said, “This is a false allegation. The earthmover used to demolish the gates belongs to Visva Bharati. They did it to frame us.”
Gagan Sarkar, another trader named in the complaint, alleged that Visva Bharati authorities planned the demolition.
Mamata Banerjee on Monday disapproved of the wall and said, “I do not want any construction that destroys the beauty of Visva Bharati. When Rabindranath Tagore built Visva Bharati he wanted students to be in the heart of nature and study in the open. He did not want wood and cement structures.”
District magistrate Moumita Godara Basu said that she will hold a meeting with university authorities and local people on Wednesday and hear both sides.
University students owing allegiance to the Students’ Federation of India, the student’s front of the CPI(M), staged a silent agitation outside the vice-chancellor’s office on Monday night.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has accused the TMC of masterminding the vandalism. “This is an example of law and order situation in Bengal. The TMC is trying to establish control over a Central university campus,” said BJP state president Dilip Ghosh.
The vice-chancellor did not talk to the media on Tuesday as well. Anirban Sircar, the only designated spokesperson of Visva Bharati did not take calls either.
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