Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Monday wrote to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, thanking her for supporting him after reports emerged that the Visva Bharati University has named him in a list of illegal plot holders within its premises, The Indian Express reported.
The Nobel laureate has a family house in Santiniketan, built by Kshitimohan Sen, his grandfather and a Sanskrit scholar of repute. The list includes the name of Sen as his house, Pratichi, occupies around 138 decimals of land while the original lease was given on 125 decimals. Several plots of lands inside the university were given to eminent people on long-term lease.
Last week, the West Bengal chief minister had said that some “nouveau invaders” in Visva Bharati were raising baseless allegations against Sen and wrote about the renowned economist’s deep links with Santiniketan. She had expressed solidarity with him against the “bigotry of the majoritarians in this country”, and assured her support to him in the “battle that have made you an enemy of these forces of untruth”.
“I am very happy indeed to get your supportive letter,” Sen said in an email to Banerjee. “I am not only most touched, but also very reassured that despite the busy life you have to lead, you can find time for reassuring people under attack. Your strong voice, along with your full understanding of what is going on, is, for me, a tremendous source of strength.”
Sen expressed his deep appreciation of Banerjee’s letter to him. “I also take the liberty of conveying to you my thanks as well as my personal affection and admiration,” the 87-year-old wrote.
Sen has denied that his house was located on unauthorised land, calling the development a “political matter”. The Visva Bharati land, he said, was on a long-term lease, “which is nowhere near its expiry, but the vice-chancellor can always dream about evicting anyone he wants”, according to The Times of India.
The matter has assumed political colour in the run up to the Assembly elections in West Bengal, whose campaign has seen the Trinamool Congress accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party of being an “outsider party”, not aware of the state’s culture and icons.