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In a major departure from tradition, Visva-Bharati set to shift its weekend

Students at an Open Air class inside Visva-Bharati University campus on the Teachers' Day at Santiniketan in West Bengal. File

Students at an Open Air class inside Visva-Bharati University campus on the Teachers' Day at Santiniketan in West Bengal. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

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With Visva-Bharati remaining closed every Wednesday and Thursday and other institutions in the country shut on Saturday and Sunday, the university remains cut off from the rest of the world for a good four days in a week

Visva-Bharati, started by Rabindranath Tagore in 1921, is likely to ring in the New Year with a heated debate as the university appears set to shift its weekend from Wednesday-Thursday to Saturday-Sunday.

Several meetings have taken place in the recent months regarding the shift and, even though no formal announcement has been made yet, the change is expected to be effected from the beginning of 2020. “The decision is in the pipeline, though a notification has not been issued yet,” Visva-Bharati PRO Anirban Sircar told The Hindu.

The shift, if it happens, will mark a major departure from tradition. Santiniketan, in keeping with the Brahmo Samaj practice (Tagore was a Brahmo), has always observed Wednesday - and not Sunday - as the weekly holiday. When Central universities began to have two days off in a week, Visva-Bharati first chose Sunday as the additional day-off before settling for a Wednesday-Thursday weekend.

With Visva-Bharati closed every Wednesday and Thursday and other institutions in the country shut on Saturday and Sunday, the university remains cut off from the rest of the world for a good four days in a week. This is detrimental to its functioning particularly because Visva-Bharati, being the only Centre-run university in the whole of West Bengal, is unable to respond timely to communications it receives mid-week from the Ministry of Human Resource Development and also the University Grants Commission.

‘Attack on Tagore by Modi govt.’

“Tagore himself would have approved of this change,” said a university official, asking not to be named for the fear of generating controversy. The fear of controversy is understandable because there are many in the campus who see this proposal as an attack on tradition and on Tagore by the Narendra Modi government. Tagore died in 1941, and the university came under Central control in 1951.

But a large number of teachers - irrespective of their political ideology - appear to be in support of the idea. “Many of the teachers have their children studying and spouses working in non-Santiniketan institutions where the weekend is Saturday-Sunday. Such people hardly get to see their families,” said Sudipta Bhattacharyya, a professor of economics and president of the Visva-Bharati Faculty Association.

“The only grouse one can have is departure from tradition. But a tradition that comes in the way of the functioning of the university is self-defeating,” Mr. Bhattacharyya said.

Many teachers point out that Wednesday is a holiday because it is considered the prayer day in the Brahmo tradition, but considering that Santiniketan’s weekend begins on Wednesday, the attendance at the weekly prayer held in the glass-walled Upasana Griha on the campus is thin because most people are headed home.

“One can always attend the Wednesday prayer and come to the classroom,” said Sanjoy Mallik, principal of Kala Bhavana, one of the oldest institutions of Visva-Bharati. “The Visva-Bharati of today is not the same as the Visva-Bharati of Tagore’s time. For example, earlier you had no exams but now you do. Therefore it makes sense to have parity.”

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 1:15:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/in-a-major-departure-from-tradition-visva-bharati-set-to-shift-its-weekend/article30275185.ece

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