The vice-chancellor (V-C) of Visva Bharati sat on a token 12-hour hunger strike, along with other staff, in Shantiniketan on Monday to protest against the handicraft traders who run their shops near the main gate of the campus, alleging they had encroached on the university land.
He appealed to traders of the local handicraft market near the main gate to remove their stalls and allow beautification there.
The traders too under ‘Kabiguru Hastasilpo Unayyan Samity’ held a dharna nearby.
“Some local traders have encroached on our land. We are trying to get back that land. We are not dislocating them. We have requested them to go to a place provided by us. I strongly believe that after today, with goodwill, they will accept our proposal,” said V-C Bidyut Chakraborty.
University sources said that they have identified an alternative location at Ratanpalli, which is barely half-a-kilometre away from their present Bhubandanga market, to relocate them.
“During the last NACC assessment, Visva-Bharati ranked B+ and received no marks on beautification. Now the university wants to clear the area near the gate for beautification, especially before the visit of Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on August 16,” added Chakraborty.
Many, however, did not agree to the V-C sitting on a strike. The employees’ union, Karmi Sabha, and teachers’ council, Adhyapak Sabha, kept away from the hunger strike. “There was no official notice for the hunger strike. We had classes to attend too. It is unbecoming for him to sit on a hunger strike. Instead he should approach the administration,” said an assistant professor on a condition of anonymity.
But, Biplab Loh Choudhury, a senior professor of varsity, said their strike was not hampering the classes. “The faculty members and other officials are participating in this strike by rotation. Like after attending this for sometime, now I am going to take a class,” said the professor.
The local traders too sat on a ‘peaceful protest’ just 50 feet away from the university.
“We are on a 12-hour peaceful protest as we have not encroached on the Visva-Bharati’s land. This area is belongs to PWD. We are running these stalls for the last 35 to 40 years. We are all small traders of handicrafts. Now, present varsity authorities are trying to attack the small traders like us. We have clearly stated that if the PWD requests us, we’ll leave the place. People, who are sitting with the vice-chancellor, also know the truth and are supporting us,” claimed Aminul Huda, secretary of Kabiguru Hastoshilpo Unnayan Samiti.
According to sources, last month the Visva-Bharati authorities had taken out a march on Santiniketan road with students, teachers and faculty members, along with the vice-chancellor, appealing traders to vacate the land.
In June, the university authorities had also put up a notice for the traders of Bhubandanga market to vacate the land. But the traders claims that they had an agreement to stay and trade on the ground.