Another wall being built by the Visva-Bharati University inside its campus near Sangit Bhavana ran into controversy as residents of Santiniketan and its alumni on Wednesday staged a peaceful protest against the construction.
The nine-foot wall is being built to separate Sangit Bhavana (Institute of Dance, Drama and Music) and residential areas and is different from the one around the Poush Mela ground. The university is located at Santiniketan in Bolpur with various departments, hostels and ashrams sharing space with residential houses.
The protesters said the wall ran counter to the institute’s legacy and philosophies of Rabindranath Tagore who founded the institute in 1921. They sang Tagore’s songs and held placards denouncing the university’’ move.
When The Indian Express visited the campus on Tuesday, it found workers erecting the wall near Sangit Bhavana.
Phalguni Mukherjee, an elderly protester, said, “We have always known Visva-Bharati as an open-air institute which never believed in erecting walls. It is a place for free thinking and learning modelled by Rabindranath Tagore. The university did not even intimate the residents before erecting the wall. This goes against the nature of this place.”
“What was the need to destroy the natural beauty of this place? It goes against the principles and philosophies of Tagore. Are they (authorities) not aware of this? In 2011, a pact was signed between the university and then Governor of West Bengal, and a wall more than four feet and eight inches long will not be erected and that too in exceptional circumstances. If they need to erect a wall then it should never cross the mentioned height,” said Shyamal Chanda, another resident and an alumnus.
Another said the authorities were too busy focusing on non-academic issues to hide its failures on the academic front.
“Instead of improving the academic standard, the vice-chancellor is often seen monitoring construction of walls. I think the closing of the institute is a ploy to stop the upcoming National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) visit as it has not been able to improve its ranking in the last few years,” said Dhrubajyoti Nandi, an author.
The university had received a B-rating in its first NAAC assessment in 2015 which had raised questions about the university’s falling academic standards. An NAAC visit to the University is due this year.
The central university has slipped places under the Ministry of Education’s National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) ranking. In 2018 when V-C Bidyut Chakraborty took over, the university was ranked 31st among the Indian universities and dropped to 37th and 50th in 2019 and 2020.
University officials, including Chakraborty, were not available for comment on the latest round of protest.
Sudripta Tagore, a descendant of Rabindranath Tagore’s elder brother Satyendranath Tagore, said, “I do not support the opinion of putting up a boundary walls inside the campus which goes against the nature of this place.”
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