There are a few thorny issues such as sharing of Teesta waters and Rohingya refugees that may come up for discussion between the three personalities who would be present on the dais of Visva-Bharati convocation on Friday.(Hindustan Times)
There are a few thorny issues such as sharing of Teesta waters and Rohingya refugees that may come up for discussion between the three personalities who would be present on the dais of Visva-Bharati convocation on Friday.(Hindustan Times)

Sheikh Hasina will be the first head of govt of a foreign country and Mamata Banerjee, the first CM, on Visva Bharati convocation dais

The West Bengal chief minister would meet Sheikh Hasina in Kolkata on Saturday.
By Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri | Hindustan Times, Santiniketan
PUBLISHED ON MAY 25, 2018 10:25 AM IST

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will be the first head of government of a foreign country to be present on the dais of Visva-Bharati on Friday. Incidentally, Mamata Banerjee will also be the first chief minister of Bengal to be present on the dais along with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is chancellor of the central university.

West Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, who is the rector of the institution, and vice chancellor Sabujkali Sen will also be present on the dais.

Read: Bengal govt readies defence on Rohingya issue ahead of Modi-Hasina meet

“I was not even aware that I will the first chief minister to be present on the dais during convocation. However, I will be present between the prime ministers of two countries as a commoner,” Banerjee said on Thursday afternoon, referring to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has been invited as special guest.

It has been 42 years since a Bengal chief minister attended a convocation at Visva Bharati. In 1976, former chief minister Siddharttha Shankar Roy attended the ceremony. “This time around, the chief minister will be on the dais. But as far as I can remember, Roy attended the convocation but did not sit on the dais,” Sen said.

The tradition is being broken for the first time, the vice chancellor said.

After the convocation, which will take around an hour, Modi, Hasina and Banerjee would attend the inauguration of the Bangladesh Bhavan at Santiniketan. This will be followed by a meeting between the two prime ministers.

Read: Activists write to PMO to raise Atreyee river issue during Hasina visit

Bengal government officials said Mamata Banerjee may be invited to be present at the meeting between the two prime ministers. “If she attends it, possibilities are high that crucial issues such as Teesta water accord and influx of Rohingya refugees will be discussed,” said a senior bureaucrat accompanying the chief minister on conditions of anonymity.

“This will be a meeting between the prime ministers. I cannot say now if I will be there. It is probable. However, I would have a meeting with Sheikh Hasina in Kolkata on Saturday evening. But I do not think there will be a discussion on Teesta water accord. We have many issues to talk about. She is very affectionate towards me and I love her very much,” said Banerjee.

Banerjee was, however, unhappy that the university will not give away the Desikottam awards, which is usually done during the convocation ceremony. “This is unfortunate. It is Visva Bharati’s highest award. Had the award function taken place, the convocation would have been more significant,” said Banerjee.

Sabujkali Sen said the Bangladesh Bhavan project was initiated after Hasina expressed her wish to construct a structure that would strengthen the cultural ties between the two countries much on the one lines of China Bhavan and Japan Bhavan. “The entire cost, which is around Rs 25 crore, has been borne by the Bangladesh government but Bisva Bharati will look after it,” Sen said.

The architecture is a blend of contemporary and old designs, with the exterior walls having terracotta designs. It has a huge auditorium, two seminar halls, a museum, a photo- gallery and a cafetaria.

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