Fearing disruption, Visva-Bharati university on Monday chose to hold a scheduled talk on the worship of Goddess Kali in the online mode instead of making it an offline event as it was originally announced to be.
Some students had announced that they would hold a protest if the university went ahead with the talk, titled ‘The Concept of Kali Worship’, organised as part of its lecture series. According to those students, religion and idol worship had always been kept out of the Rabindranath Tagore-founded institution that was rooted in Brahmo tradition.
With the university sensing trouble, the speaker, Swami Saradatmananda Maharaj of the Sree Ramakrishna Ashrama in Kolkata, eventually delivered the lecture online from Kolkata.
In his introductory speech, Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty forcefully defended his decision to organise the lecture. In a message to his detractors, Prof. Chakrabarty quoted Voltaire and Mahatma Gandhi — how one stood for the freedom of expression and the other wanted all ideas wafting in through his windows without him being carried away by any particular one — and said the idea was just to have an academic discourse to understand what Kali stood for.
“What better place than a university to have such a discourse. My detractors are deliberately spreading misinformation,” Prof. Chakrabarty said.
“Our aim is to understand the phenomenon of Kali, with reference to the factors that contributed to the phenomenon… We have no intention of hurting the sentiments of anyone. [Those who] misconstrue this as an attempt to introduce idolatry [in Santiniketan], please don’t misunderstand us. We are not questioning the foundational ethos of Visva-Bharati at all, in fact I am the one who is trying to protect it,” the Vice-Chancellor said.