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Saturday, January 23, 2021

‘Tantalisingly untrue’: Amartya Sen reiterates he did not call Visva-Bharati V-C

Last month, the vice-chancellor had claimed at a virtual meeting with faculty members that Sen had called him and introduced himself as “Bharat Ratna Amartya Sen”

By: Express News Service | Kolkata | January 1, 2021 11:49:59 pm
Amartya Sen, Visva-Bharati University, Visva-Bharati University VC, Amartya sen bharat ratna, indian express newsAmartya Sen. (File)

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has once again denied calling Visva-Bharati University (VBU Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty in June 2019 and introducing himself as “Bharat Ratna”. In a new email sent to Visva-Bharati University Faculty Association (VBUFA) president Sudipta Bhattacharya earlier this week, Sen dismissed Chakraborty’s claim.

Last month, the vice-chancellor had claimed at a virtual meeting with faculty members that Sen had called him and introduced himself as “Bharat Ratna Amartya Sen”. The economist, Chakraborty said, requested that hawkers outside his home not be removed because his daughter, who visits Santiniketan often, would be inconvenienced.

Following this, Bhattacharya wrote to Sen, asking him whether he had indeed spoken to the V-C over the phone. The Nobel laureate, in his reply, denied such claims. However, a university spokesperson, in a statement to the media, insisted that the Nobel laureate had called the V-C from a local number and complained to him about the removal of hawkers. According to the spokesman, the conversation took place in June 2019, when the V-C was returning to Santiniketan from Kolkata airport after attending a meeting in Delhi.

The VBUFA president emailed Sen again, asking him if he was in India in June 2019 since the call was made from a local number.

On Tuesday, the economist wrote, “I was not in India at all in June 2019. I am extremely rarely in India in June. I prefer to come only after the monsoon settles in — so it tends to be July, not June. On your other question, I have talked with the present V-C of Visva-Bharati only once, to the best of my knowledge. This was a few years ago when he was chairing a meeting for the release of a book by Pranab Bardhan. His claim that we have talked on the phone and I introduced myself as Bharat Ratna is tantalisingly untrue.”

In the mail, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, Sen went on to add, “On June 2, 2019, I was in France, attending a meeting in Paris. On June 14, 2019, I was in America, at our home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After that I was in England, in the English Cambridge. I came [to India] on the 3rd of July, and went to Delhi first, and then Calcutta and Santiniketan. I was not in India at all in June 2019.”

The 87-year-old economist, who was born and brought up in Santiniketan, is the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor, and Professor of Economics and Philosophy, at Harvard University in the US at present.

VBU authorities recently accused Sen of illegally occupying 13 decimals of university land, an allegation refuted by Sen. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has defended Sen, accusing the V-C of being a “BJP man” and targetting the Nobel laureate because he does not support the saffron party’s ideology.

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