Several luminaries, including members of Rabindranath Tagore’s family, have written to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee against the Visva- Bharati authorities, urging her government to take possession of a century-old heritage road as they fear that access to it might be blocked.
Considering the spree of building high boundary walls in several parts of Shantiniketan and creating a “prison-like atmosphere”, there are apprehensions that the 3-km road connecting Visva-Bharati with Tagore’s dream village Sriniketan will also be blocked for public soon and a new road come up in its place, said the letter written by 40 eminent persons, including a member of painter Nandalal Bose’s family.
“An 8-9 feet high wall is nearing completion on a portion of this old road which is dotted with residences of luminaries like Amartya Sen, Khsitimohan Sen and Nandalal Bose,” the letter written in Bengali said.
“Once the wall is completed, this road will be out of bounds for residents of Sripally, Simanta Pally, Pearson Pally, Andrew’s Pally, Deer Park, Binoy Bhavan and Sriniketan, and a part of history and heritage of Santiniketan will be lost,” it added.
If an alternative new road is carved out for movementbetween Shantiniketan and Sriniketan, the old road will be blocked by Visva-Bharati as the varsity authorities have been undertaking such projects “unilaterally” without taking into consideration the objection of many ashramites and locals, they alleged in the letter.
“If the road is taken back by the state PWD, such anold thoroughfare will not be made inaccessible to the people and the objective of Tagore to set up Visva-Bharati and Shantiniketan will not be lost,” they said.
The ashramites — the residents of the campus and the neighbourhood, including former students and teachers — said they had written to Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty in February against erecting such high walls but did not get any response.
“We hope that the sentiments of those who had been living in this area for ages before Visva Bharati became a central establishment will be given due recognition by you,” they said in the letter sent to the chief minister on Thursday.
Among the signatories of the letter were Supriyo Tagore and Subhra Tagore, descendants of the ‘Bard of Bengal’ and former principals of Pathabhavan and Mrinalini Pathabhavan, besides Nandalal Bose’s grandson Suprabuddha Sen.
Visva-Bharati authorities were not available for comments.
On August 17, the move of Visva-Bharati, founded by Tagore in 1921, to build fencing around the Poush Mela ground triggered violence and the varsity’s properties were vandalised by a mob.