The controversial plaques Visva-Bharati university installed on its campus to mark the inclusion of Santiniketan township in the UNESCO world heritage list will be replaced very soon, the authorities officially announced on Monday, four days after the acting vice-chancellor (V-C) was summoned to Delhi by the Union education ministry to discuss the issue.
Visva-Bharati, West Bengal’s only central university set up by Rabindranath Tagore in 1921, triggered a row in October by installing the plaques, which bear the names of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the university’s acharya (chancellor) and the then V-C Bidyut Chakrabarty but don’t mention the nation’s first Nobel laureate.
Chakrabarty, at whose behest the plaques were installed, retired on November 8 and Sanjoy Kumar Mallik, the head of the art department, was appointed as acting V-C by the Centre.
“The vice-chancellor (acting) has also been advised that the installation of the official text of the statement for the UNESCO recognizing Santiniketan as a heritage site, is of immediate priority,” said a statement issued by Visva-Bharati spokesperson Mahua Banerjee on Monday.
“The Ministry was informed that on receipt of the aforementioned draft statement, a committee has been immediately constituted to finalise the Bengali version of the text (as instructed) and to look through the text in Hindi and English for parity of statement across the three languages. The ministry was assured that for this issue too, the university has no intentions for unnecessary delay in carrying out the work,” the statement, which focused on the decisions taken at the November 16 meeting in Delhi, added.
A member of the Visva-Bharati committee, who did not wish to be named, mentioned in the statement told HT that the text of the content drafted by the Centre neither mentions the PM nor the former V-C.
“The English and Hindi drafts follow the pattern in which UNESCO describes world heritage sites in its records. The focus is on the history of Santiniketan, Tagore and Visva-Bharati. While translating the long content into Bengali we suggested changes in a few words. The Bengali text will appear first and followed by the English and Hindi versions,” the committee member said.
“The content is quite long. I don’t think inscribing it on stone will be feasible. They may use steel or some other material. The number of plaques and their locations will be decided by the Centre and Archaeological Survey of India,” he added.
Chakrabarty, whose five-year term as V-C was marked by controversies and litigations, was questioned on Monday by officers from Santiniketan police station for one hour in connection with five criminal complaints lodged against him between August and November this year. Most of the complainants accused him of defaming Bengali culture and hurting public sentiment.
The police went to ‘Purbita,’ the house allocated for serving V-Cs that Chakrabarty has not vacated yet.
This issue, too, was taken up at the November 16 meeting in Delhi.
“On being enquired, the ministry was informed that on behalf of the former vice-chancellor, his legal advisor has submitted an email intimation on the 15th of November that he requires to stay on at the bungalow till the 30th of November 2023. The university is examining this intimation as per rules. The vice-chancellor (acting) has been advised to ensure a dignified and graceful exit for the former vice-chancellor,” said the statement issued by the Visva-Bharati spokesperson.