Kolkata: The authorities of Visva Bharati University in Santiniketan, which was founded by Rabindranath Tagore, has sought back a substantial portion of land within its campus which is currently under the jurisdiction of the West Bengal government.
According to a letter sent to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee by the university's Vice Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty, handover of the land has become necessary to preserve the recent achievement of this iconic institution getting the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Incidentally, the stretch of land that the university authorities have sought back from the state government includes the portion which is adjacent to the ancestral residence of Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen, who is already fighting a legal suit with the university authorities over an ongoing dispute over 13 decimals of land occupied by Sen.
The said stretch of land has a history. Originally, the 3 km stretch was with the state government. However, in 2017 the state government granted the university authorities the authority for maintenance of the land following an appeal from then interim VC Swapan Dutta.
Soon after that, the university authorities banned the movement of heavy goods vehicles through the said stretch of the land on the ground that the vibration caused by that might impact the other heritage structures adjacent to the land stretch.
However, that decision of the university authorities faced objections from the residents there, who urged the Chief Minister to take back the land from the university authorities. Accordingly, in 2020, the Chief Minister again wrested the authority of the land stretch on behalf of the state public works department.
Now, armed with the UNESCO World Heritage site tag, the university authorities have again sought back the authority over this stretch of land.
In his letter to the Chief Minister, Chakraborty stated that in order to preserve this prestigious accreditation, it is necessary to ban movement of vehicles through this land stretch so that the vibration does not impact the different heritage structures adjacent to it.
However, a section of the residents there have sent a counter letter to the Chief Minister, requesting her to reject the plea from the university authorities.
According to them, the free ambience of education in the midst of nature was the principal aim of Tagore behind setting up this university. However, they added, the current university authorities are trying to confine the ambience of this iconic institute within the newly-created boundary walls.