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West Bengal: SFI Protests at Visva Bharati, Demands Withdrawal of Students' Suspension

A statement from Viswa Bharati said that withdrawal of the punishment is possible only if the agitating students apologise unconditionally.

Kolkata: Visva Bharati University witnessed a big demonstration on Thursday demanding the withdrawal of suspension of protesting students. The protest was led by Students’ Federation of India (SFI), affiliated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Later, an SFI delegation met the working secretary of Visva Bharati. SFI state secretary Srijan Bhattacharya said during the meeting that lasted for about four hours, all demands, including the withdrawal of suspension of the students, were discussed. “We received a positive response," he added.

Apart from the withdrawal of suspension of six protesting students, the students demanded the withdrawal of punishment of protesting professor Sudipta Bhattacharya and asked the university not to withhold the post-graduate admission of another protesting student, Somnath Sau.

The march started from Bolpur station and continued till Santiniketan post office junction. After the rally, a protest was held in front of Visva Bharati's Vice Chancellor's office. Many other students from other districts of the state also participated in this rally.

SFI All India general secretary Mayukh Biswas, SFI state secretary Srijan Bhattacharya, SFI state president Pratik Ur Rahman, state vice president Debanjan Dev, and other leaders participated in the protest march. Warning the Visva Bharati authorities, Biswas said: "The Central government has launched an attack on the education system of the entire country. It is no different in Visva Bharati. We have been noticing the same thing ever since this vice-chancellor took charge. Anyone who protests is brought down. Six students have been suspended. If this decision is not withdrawn immediately, there will be an intense agitation."

During the protest, the SFI delegation met the acting secretary and submitted a memorandum.

Meanwhile, a statement from Viswa Bharati said that withdrawal of suspension and punishment was possible only if the agitating students apologise unconditionally.

One of the suspended students, Mrityunjay Das, told reporters: "We will take legal advice and discuss among ourselves and take our next decision in this regard."

Bhattacharya said: "If the students have misbehaved, then it is up to them to apologise or not. But our discussion with the authorities has been positive. We will spread that message among the students."

On November 23 last year, some students had gone to the central office to talk to the Vice-Chancellor about a number of demands, including restoring the learning environment in the university; cancellation of “wrongful” admission of students, and purported wrongful suspension of professors and staff. Allegedly, the security guards prevented the students from entering the campus. This led to a clash with security guards. After that, Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty was surrounded by students for over 10 hours. He was later freed with the help of security guards and police.

Sudipta Bhattacharya, president of Visva Bharati's professors' organisation VBUF, was also present at that protest. The authorities accused him of inciting the students. It was also alleged that the students started the agitation by keeping the Vice-Chancellor “imprisoned” in the bungalow.

Following this incident, Visva Bharati authorities issued a notification last December and dismissed Professor Bhattacharya. Six students including Pratyush Mukherjee, Akshay Karmakar, Supriya Saha, Mritunjay Das, and Devdatta Mete were also suspended on the same charge.

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