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In Visva-Bharati, a major political flip-flop

The Visva Bharati University campus. File Photo.  

Its disappearance was as unexpected as its appearance, leaving questions unanswered and the field open for people to make guesses — and also, perhaps, putting a question mark on the Bidyut Chakrabarty’s future as the Vice-Chancellor of the Santiniketan-based Visva-Bharati.

On Wednesday morning, a notice was uploaded on the university website, inviting people to the next lecture in its lecture series, to be held virtually on the evening of May 18. The lecture was to be delivered by Professor Sanjay Kumar, Joint Advisor at Niti Aayog, and presided over by Professor Chakrabarty himself. The subject of the lecture: ‘Why BJP failed to win West Bengal Assembly Elections?’

Local news channels, which had gone silent on Santiniketan because the university itself had fallen silent during the recent times owing to the prolonged Assembly elections (and the results) and the fresh wave of COVID-19, included the news about the proposed lecture in their top stories.

Within a couple of hours, an announcement was inserted in the notice, that “Due to some unavoidable circumstances, this lecture is treated to be as cancelled for the time being.” Subsequently, the notice itself was taken down from the university website.

“Things are opaque now in Visva-Bharati. In an institution founded by Rabindranath Tagore, who consciously stayed away from active politics, why was such a lecture proposed? If proposed, why was it withdrawn?” asked educationist Sudripta Tagore, a former student of the university and a descendant of the Tagore family.

‘Topic sounded totally out of place’

A senior academician, who was closely associated with Visva-Bharati for many years and who did not wish to be named, said: “The topic sounded totally out of place in an academic institution, especially when there is no freedom of speech and any forum for open discussions, not to mention the terrible onslaught of COVID-19.”

A serving professor, who too did not wish to be named, said: “The fact that the lecture was to be delivered by a member of the government, one expected the blame for the BJP’s defeat to be passed on to other parties and political outfits. But once the news channels went to town with the news, the BJP brass must have taken note and realised how unwise it would be to analyse their own defeat in public.”

The VC, who took charge in November 2018, is known to be partial to right-wing ideologues while inviting speakers for the lecture series: past speakers include Swapan Dasgupta and Tathagata Roy, both members of the BJP. But the topic of the now cancelled lecture could put him into trouble: a party sensitive to criticism is unlikely to take kindly to someone proposing to analyse its own defeat in public, that too at a time when its government is already under fire for its poor handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2021 1:16:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/in-visva-bharati-a-major-political-flip-flop/article34543723.ece

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