The West Bengal government has revoked the security cover assigned to Visva Bharati University Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty’s office over allegations of misuse by the administration, The Indian Express reported on Friday. The move came on August 17 following vandalism on the university’s campus allegedly over the construction of a wall in an adjoining open ground where the annual winter fair, Poush Mela, is held.
A personal security guard assigned to Chakrabarty was also reportedly replaced with a new one. However, the vice chancellor refused to accept the new guard, an unidentified official told The Indian Express.
However, an official in the Birbhum district administration, which provides security to the vice chancellor of the central university, denied that the security detail was removed, according to The Times of India. “The personal security officials were changed as they have been assigned there for a long time,” the official said.
On Wednesday, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said the withdrawal of security was inappropriate and urged Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to take action. “VC [Vice Chancellor] Visva Bharati has intimated ‘my personal bodyguard, given by state government has suddenly been withdrawn,” Dhankhar tweeted. “On 17/08, four bodyguards, stationed in VC office, were withdrawn.’ I find it inappropriate. Urged Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to take appropriate steps and provide security.”
Various people, including poets, filmmakers, theatre personalities and actors, have made an appeal to both the state government and the university to resolve the dispute and said that Visva Bharati was being transformed into a “wrestling arena”.
On Monday, thousands of people turned up in front of the university shortly after the construction work for the wall began in the morning. Protestors, allegedly led by Trinamool Congress leader Naresh Bauri, ransacked the campus, demolished two gates using earthmovers and seized raw materials such as cement and bricks. The protestors also vandalised a temporary office set up inside the campus for the construction work.
The university authorities had said that a fence was needed as per the orders of the National Green Tribunal. On November 1, 2017, the tribunal had said that a barrier needs to be constructed to separate the meal ground from the university and the locality.
The Poush Mela is an annual winter fair organised by the university, which draws thousands of people from the state. However, Visva Bharati has decided to suspend this year’s gathering, citing its “bitter experience” of the previous two years in asking traders to comply with the National Green Tribunal’s guidelines.
On Tuesday, Visva Bharati had demanded that the Central Bureau of Investigation look into the incident and blamed Bauri and some local leaders for the violence.
The Visva Bharati is a centrally-funded autonomous university founded by Rabindranath Tagore. It has 10 sub-institutions. The university holds many classes in open in line with Tagore’s wish to create a campus where students would study in the midst of nature. The prime minister is the chancellor of Visva Bharati.