The CPM-affiliated Students’ Federation of India (SFI) on Sunday claimed two of its members at Visva-Bharati University had been placed under house arrest since midnight ahead of Union Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah’s visit to Santiniketan. The two were identified as first-year MA students Somnath Sow and Falguni Pan.
The students’ organisation said the two were not being allowed to step out of their homes, and two civic volunteers were placed on their premises to keep an eye on them.
“Visva-Bharati, the university founded by Rabindranath Tagore nearly a century ago, has turned into the prime target of the saffron brigade in recent times. There have been regular protests against the attempt to saffronise the university. Since Amit Shah’s programme was scheduled today, the state police placed two of our members under house arrest. The way the state government is letting them impose saffronisation in Bengal is condemnable,” SFI General Secretary Mayukh Biswas told The Indian Express.
The police didn’t confirm reports of the house arrest, with calls to the Superintendent of Police going unanswered. However, a local police official on the condition of anonymity said, “It was an order from a high level to ensure no untoward incident takes place during Shah’s Bolpur visit, hence all security steps were taken under the law.”
In a statement, the SFI said on Saturday Visva-Bharati University students had gathered to protest against an alleged attempt to saffronise the institution. The university administration immediately started pressuring the protesters not to hold any further demonstrations to interrupt Shah’s visit.
“When the students refused to comply, Mamata Banerjee’s state police put Left student leaders Somnath Sow and Falguni Pan under house arrest. SFI condemns this outrageous act. We have always fought against saffronisation of educational spaces. No amount of intimidation is going to stop our struggle to protect the freedom of expression in educational institutions. SFI Central Executive Committee sends revolutionary regards to the comrades under house arrest,” the organisation added.
According to sources, Shah’s effigies were burnt at the demonstration. “I stay in Rabindra Pally in Bolpur. State police have kept me under house arrest. Two civic volunteers are here to keep an eye on me. I will only be allowed to step outside once Amit Shah leaves. I am under house arrest from midnight,” Somnath told The Indian Express over the phone.
After paying tribute to Rabindranath Tagore at Visva-Bharati, the home minister visited Shyambati in Birbhum, where he had lunch with the family of a Baul singer.