'Will ensure campus gets closed': Visva-Bharati VC in fresh row after audio clip emerges

KOLKATA: Days after Visva-Bharati Vice Chancellor (VC) Bidyut Chakraborty wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagging alleged threat by TMC strongman Anubrata Mondal for “not opening the varsity campus”, the institute on Thursday said certain decisions have been taken keeping in mind the COVID-19 situation.

The PM is the chancellor of the central university.

Mondal, the TMC’s Birbhum district president, said at a public meeting on March 23 that “a mad person” has occupied the chair of the VC of Visva-Bharati who keeps all the gates of the varsity shut during the day, notwithstanding an order issued by the Calcutta High Court.

The premier varsity, in its statement, also said that the VC was not at fault for temporarily suspending heritage festivals like Poush Mela and Basantotsab.

The annual fair and Holi celebrations draw lakhs of tourists to Santiniketan every year, and the decision to cancel the festivities was taken to stem the spread of COVID- 19, it said, while acknowledging the fact that the move had an impact on the livelihood of thousands.

Debunking allegations that Visva-Bharati had been rocked by unrest in the recent weeks, the varsity said, “We have restored work culture on the campus, sped up administrative work and introduced high-speed internet, which has been a boon for both teachers and students during online academic sessions.”

The statement further said that “some harsh decisions to curb corruption in the university has caused heartburn among many” and cited recovery of Rs 2.

53 crore from employees as an example of crackdown on “financial misappropriation”.

Chakraborty had been in the eye of storm over a host of controversial decisions, including fencing of Poush Mela ground, suspension of a section of faculty on disciplinary grounds, cancellation of Poush mela and Basantotsab, and criticisism of some faculty, students and ashramites over their conduct in an open letter.

Responding to the statement, the left-leaning faculty association at the central varsity said the assertions made in the statement do not hold water as the VC had violated COVID- 19 protocols by arranging physical meetings during the lockdown last year.