Kolkata

In Visva-Bharati, discontent over lecture on Kali worship

 Visva-Bharati University

Visva-Bharati University | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Visva-Bharati appears set to witness more trouble on campus, this time over a lecture on the worship of Goddess Kali, with old-timers as well as detractors of Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty saying that religion has never found space in this secular institution.

At 4 p.m. on Monday, a lecture titled ‘The Concept of Kali Worship’ is scheduled to be delivered by Swami Saradatmananda Ji Maharaj, who is the general secretary of the Sree Sree Ramakrishna Ashrama in Kolkata. The event will be held in the physical mode — unlike the previous lecture, delivered online by actor Kabir Bedi — at the university’s Central Library and will be presided over by the Vice-Chancellor himself.

This is not the first time the university is witnessing anger over the choice of speakers. A section of teachers and students allege that only right-wing ideologues are given preference by the V-C, and there was a protest on the campus when BJP ideologue Swapan Dasgupta delivered a lecture in early 2020.

“Why Goddess Kali suddenly, that too in an institution steeped in the Brahmo tradition that doesn’t encourage religious practices? We are surely going to protest, but before that we need to talk to our leadership and also try to understand the motive behind such a lecture,” said Somnath Sow, who belongs to the Students’ Federation of India and is a student of economics at the university.

When asked why Visva-Bharati — started in 1921 by Rabindranath Tagore, a Brahmo himself and who preferred to celebrate seasons rather than religious festivals on the campus — should hold a talk on Kali worship, the University PRO responded with this statement: “A speech by a Ramakrishna Mission Maharaj is a religious/academic/intellectual discourse to understand the phenomenon.”

Educationist Sudripta Tagore, himself a former student of Visva-Bharati and a member of the Tagore family, told  The Hindu: “Like other decisions [of the current V-C, who assumed charge in November 2018], such as putting up walls, and ruining academic atmosphere by suspending upright teachers and students, this is a bid to destroy another focus of this institution. After attacking the space and the academic atmosphere, now the attack is on the secular focus of the institution.”

Academically, Visva-Bharati has witnessed a decline in the recent years. Recently, while several other Bengal institutions celebrated their positions in the National Institutional Ranking Framework, Visva-Bharati found itself at No. 3 spot from the bottom.

Ever since NIRF was instituted in 2015, its position has witnessed a steady slide in the ‘university’ category — from 11 in 2016 to 19 in 2017, 31 in 2018, 37 in 2019, 50 in 2020 and 64 in 2021. This year, however, it stood at 98. In the ‘overall category’, which includes all institutions such as engineering and medical colleges, Visva-Bharati is ranked 148 — a sharp plunge from 97 last year.


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Printable version | Aug 27, 2022 10:35:12 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/in-visva-bharati-discontent-over-lecture-on-kali-worship/article65671352.ece