Violence and boycott marked the “Basanta Utsav” (Spring Festival) on the Vishva-Bharati campus at Santiniketan on Sunday.
The tradition of celebrating Basanta Utsav at Santiniketan was started by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore himself and it is one of the two occasions that draws thousands to the university to witness and participate in the colourful festivities, including several cultural functions.
Early on Sunday morning, a clash between two groups of students resulted in irreparable damage to artworks, notably murals created under the supervision of the famed artist Nandalal Bose, at “Black House,” one of the university’s hostels.
The incident sparked a wave of protest among the students of the Kala Bhavan (Institute of Fine Arts) and the Sangeet Bhavan (Institute of Music) demanding immediate disciplinary action against those responsible for the incident.
“The incident is really regrettable as bloodshed and violence took place at this revered institution. I have summoned a body of the principals of the various institutes to look into the matter,” Rajat Kanta Roy, Vice-Chancellor, told The Hindu over telephone.
A section of students, however, was not satisfied by the assurances of the authorities and staged silent demonstrations and boycotted all festivities through the day. While celebrations in general were subdued as a result of the boycott, some of the functions that ought to be hosted by the two departments, including the staging of a play in the evening, were cancelled.
Ironically, this year the producers of the play had selected Basanta, a play written by Tagore, for staging at the festival.
“Instead of more well-known plays like ‘Chandalika’ we had chosen to stage this play,” said Supriyo Tagore, former principal of the Patha Bhavan, who was to essay one of the principal characters.
“What has happened is indicative of a greater malaise that has set into Gurudev’s [Rabindranath Tagore’s] institution. Corruption has affected the very soul of the place,” Mr. Supriyo Tagore said.
Vishva-Bharati has been dragged into several controversies, the most recent of which was in October last when there was unrest on the campus for a couple of months on the grounds of allegations of corruption against university authorities.