Left-leaning intellectuals urge Visva-Bharati not to ‘harass’ Amartya Sen

Kolkata:¬†More than 120 Left-leaning intellectuals and famous personalities have written an open letter, urging Visva-Bharati University to not “harass” Nobel laureate Amartya Sen over the land issue.

The intellectuals called upon the university authorities to “desist from continued humiliation of Sen” claiming that he “rightfully possesses the entire 1.38 acres of land” at his plot in Santiniketan.

The signatories also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is also the chancellor of Visva-Bharati, to “break his deafening silence on the continued insult of Sen”.

“Sen has been living on this plot which had been given to him on inheritance‚Ķ Visva-Bharati is now all set to evict Professor Sen from his ancestral house. Such a move has lowered the head of every Bengali, for that matter every Indian, before the entire world,” the letter, published on Friday but made available to the media on Saturday, stated.

Signatories include educationist Pabitra Sarkar, columnist Samik Bandyopadhyay, actors Sabyasachi Chakraborty and Biplab Chatterjee, writer Bhagirath Mishra, theatre personality Ashok Mukhopadhyay and lawyer Bikash Bhattacharya.

In a recent eviction order, the university asked the renowned economist to vacate the 13 decimals of land which he had allegedly occupied in an unauthorised manner by May 6.

Noting that the institution was in urgent need of gaining control of all “encroachments” as per the Centre’s advisories and CAG reports, the notice stated, “Amartya Kumar Sen and all persons concerned are liable to be evicted from the said premises, if need be, by use of such force as may be necessary.”

“It is decided that 13 decimals of land in the north-west corner of the scheduled premises are to be recovered from him,” the notice said.

Visva-Bharati maintained that Sen’s reply to an earlier show-cause notice was “fallacious and factually incorrect” and the university was the “rightful owner of all these lands which had been encroached upon in past years including the 13 decimals of land occupied by Sen”.

Sen repeatedly trashed the charge claiming that while 1.25 acres of land at his plot was leased by the university to his father for a certain period of time, the contentious 13 decimals of land were bought by his father and he has all the necessary documents to prove that.

Visva-Bharati spokesperson Mahua Banerjee told PTI, “As specified in the notice, the university had given several opportunities to Sen to reply to the show-cause even before the start of the proceedings. However, he did not respond to the issues raised in any of the aforesaid notices while his lead advocate sent a notice to express apology in all the print and electronic media for making fictitious, false and malafide remarks.”

Noting that there is no challenge to the assertion that the scheduled premises belong to Visva-Bharati, of which 1.25 acres had been leased to Sen’s father in the 1940s and the 13 decimals of land have been occupied by him in “unauthorised” manner, Banerjee said that the institute has the right to take any action deemed legally appropriate to free the “encroachment” by May 6.