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‘Heritage’ Workshop Sparks Row in Visva Bharati University

Faculty, students of the central university, founded by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, protest collaboration with ‘saffron-linked’ Rashtriya Kala Manch.
‘Heritage’ Workshop Sparks

Kolkata: A national workshop on heritage and culture at Visva Bharati University to be hosted by Rashtriya Kala Manch has triggered a controversy in the institute founded by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.

The central university is collaborating with Rashtriya Kala Manch for the workshop and a section of its students and the faculty have alleged that the 98-year-old institution is allowing organisations close to saffron outfits to set up their base in it.

Sudipto Bhattacharya, a professor of the university, told PTI on Saturday that the Rashtriya Kala Manch was an organisation “with proximity to ABVP” (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad), the student wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, “which should not be allowed to spread its ideals in a place like Visva Bharati.”

"We are opposed to Visva Bharati associating with Rashtriya Kala Manch for any programme. We are opposed to the involvement of any group with political leanings in any programme of Visva Bharati," Bhattacharya said.

Somnath Sau, leader of Students Federation of India’s (SFI) Visva Bharati unit, said "We are not opposed to an workshop on art and culture but we are against the entry of Rashtriya Kala Manch, an organisation known for its closeness to VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad)," another Right-wing organisation close to the RSS.

The programme, Sau said, was being held by the university's journalism department in association with Rashtriya Kala Manch.

Shivaprasad K Achar, one of the coordinators of the programme, said more than 300 students from across the country will participate in the workshop on October 22-23.

"The workshop will concentrate on Indian art and culture, including our glorious past", he said adding that the programmes are themed on cultural integration.

Rashtriya Kala Manch is working towards promoting art and culture among the people and has no political leanings, Achar claimed.

The head of Visva Bharati's journalism department, Biplab Loha Choudhury, said the department was now considering whether the programme would be deferred due to space crunch as there was “overwhelming response” by participants from all over the country.

"The objective of the programme is to let the present generation be aware about India's own science, knowledge and culture. But we will have difficulty in accommodating more than 200 people at the proposed venue. Due to space crunch, we may hold the programme later," he said.

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