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Visva-Bharati starts to fence Poush Mela ground, protests anticipated today

University urges officials to impose Section 144 in the area

By: Express News Service | Kolkata | September 29, 2020 10:39:48 am
visva bharati university, visva bharati university bengal, Visva-Bharati University students protests, Visva-Bharati University boundary wall construction, indian express newsStudents protest outside the central office of Visva-Bharati University in West Bengal. (PTI)

Following the direction of a committee appointed by the Calcutta High Court, Visva-Bharati University (VBU) on Monday started erecting a fence around the Poush Mela ground where violence had erupted a month ago.

After local traders behind last month’s vandalism on the campus appealed to people to assemble at the fairground on Tuesday, the university administration on Monday evening wrote to district administration and police officials, requesting them to impose CrPC Section 144 around the ground. Section 144 prohibits the assembly of four or more people.

The VBU wrote to the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police of Birbhum, Bolpur Sub-Divisional Officer, and the officer in charge of Santiniketan police station, saying they were apprehensive of a fresh round of violence.

“In view of continuous miking today in Bolpur and its vicinity by those defying the direction of committee, appointed by the Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta, for constructing the heritage gate that was destroyed on 17.08.2020, and raising fence on the eastern side of the Poush Mela ground to honour the direction of the National Green Tribunal, Visva Bharati apprehends vandalism tomorrow [Tuesday], leading to the damage of university property as it happened on 17 August 2020,” the university said in a statement.

“To avoid such a vandalism again, Visva-Bharati has already informed the DM, SP, SDO (of Bolpur) and OC of Santiniketan PS with the written request to adopt measures which are required to be taken under these circumstances including the imposition of Section 144 around the Mela Ground,” it added.

On August 17, the university shut down till further notice following the vandalism on its premises. The violence erupted in protest against its decision to fence the ground, which hosts the annual Poush Mela.

The protesters, led by Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders, demolished a gate and ransacked construction material brought to build the wall around the ground. Eight people were arrested in connection with the incident. The university later sought a CBI probe into the incident. Enforcement Directorate officials also visited the campus to probe the source of money utilised to mobilise the protesters.

In a press note last month, the university said, “The proposed fence is required to be constructed to honour the verdict of the Nation Green Tribunal (NGT) 1.11.2017. As per the instruction of the NGT, ‘a barrier needs to be constructed to demarcate the mela ground from the university and locality’. The height of the proposed fence shall only be four feet from the ground which will be decorated by creepers and plants in harmony with aesthetics of campus and environment, and on top of it there will be a three-foot iron grill with seven gates on the eastern side of the Mela ground.”

Explained: Stage set for confrontation 

Following its failure last month to construct a fence around the Poush Mela ground, this time the VBU administration waited for a High Court-appointed committee’s approval before executing its plan. It will be interesting to see how the local trader’s body, which was behind the protests, reacts to this development. Its appeal to the university to stop the construction of the barrier has been rejected, paving the way for another round of confrontation.

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