Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Monday demanded that the Visva Bharati University authorities withdraw the allegation that his family is in illegal possession of land on its Santiniketan campus, reported PTI.
Sen made the demands in a letter to Visva Bharati Vice Chancellor Professor Bidyut Chakraborty two days after the central university authorities asked the West Bengal government to measure the plot owned by the Nobel laureate in Santiniketan as soon as possible to permanently resolve the dispute.
In December, the Visva Bharati University had named Sen in a list of illegal plot holders within its premises. The Nobel laureate has a family house in Santiniketan, built by Kshitimohan Sen, his grandfather and a Sanskrit scholar. 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.
In his letter, Sen said that his father had purchased free-hold land from the market and not from the university and he has been paying taxes for them. “This sudden abuse of an 80-year-old document is clearly a crude attempt at harassment – or worse,” the economist said. “...The Registrar’s threat of ‘legal action’ if he discovers ‘any additional land’ beyond the leased land seems hugely mischievous.”
Sen said he was tired of Chakraborty’s deceptions. The letter said that the vice chancellor claimed that Sen telephoned him from Santiniketan in June 2019 and gave two dates when the call was made in that month. It said that when Sen informed Chakraborty that he was abroad for the entire month of June 2019, the vice chancellor’s office changed the details and said the call was made in June or July but repeated the same allegations.
“Rather than inventing new falsities and adding to their culpability, Visva-Bharati should withdraw the false allegations made by them, as my lawyer has asked,” Sen said.
Earlier too, Sen has denied that his house was located on unauthorised land, calling the development a “political matter”. The Visva Bharati land, he had 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”.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had written to Sen leading her support after the allegations emerged. In her letter, Banerjee had noted that Sen’s family has had a rich history linked to the university.
“Your maternal grandfather, the revered scholar Kshitimohan Sen, was one of the early leading settlers in Santiniketan, while your father Ashutosh Sen, a noted educationist and public administrator, had his famed house Pratichi built in Santiniketan eight decades back,” Banerjee wrote. “Yours has been a family weaved in the culture and fabric of Santiniketan, inalienably.” Sen had written back to Banerjee, thanking her for supporting him.
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.