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Visva Bharati VC Sends Termination Notice to Faculty Association President, Suspends 6 Students

Prof Sudipta Bhattacharya, who has been sent the termination notice, has been in the bad books of the VC after he opposed the harassment of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.
Visva Bharati VC Sends Termination Notice to Faculty Association President, Suspends 6 Students

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Kolkata: The stalemate situation at the prestigious Visva Bharati University (VBU) in West Bengal continues with a new row erupting over the termination of service notice to Visva Bharati University Faculty Association (VBUFA) President and Professor of Economics Sudipta Bhattacharya. 

The university’s notice of termination, issued on December 22 to the professor, has been accessed by NewsClick.

On the same day, Viswabharati’s Proctor’s office served notices to six students and suspended them for one year. 

The decision to terminate the service of the VBUFA president and former Jawaharlal Nehru University alumnus Prof Sudipta Bhattacharya comes within weeks of VBU Vice Chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty forcing his way out from a gherao of his residence by the students demanding a stop to his alleged terrorising tactics.

Prof Bhattacharya has been in the bad books of VC Chakraborty after he raised his voice against the harassment of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. The VC had claimed that Sen’s family had illegally encroached upon university land. However, earlier land records showed that the land was registered under Sen’s father’s name.

The VBUFA president had then informed Sen about the VC‘s stand and his claim that Sen had spoken with him, which was later exposed to be a false claim. The VBUFA has time and again stood beside stakeholders affected by decisions made by VC Chakraborty, including when the non-teaching association secretary was suspended, or central forces were asked to guard the university. 

Earlier, Prof Bhattacharya was suspended from his job by the same VC and then reinstated as a huge number of staff was also suspended, which affected the educational function of the university. The matter is still sub-judice before the court. 

The latest move to terminate the professor has startled Ashramiks, students and teachers of the university alike.

Prof Bhattacharya, in his reaction to NewsClick, said that this “draconian step” has been taken without giving him any chance to advocate for his cause. “The movement in the university around demands of restoring the atmosphere of education will continue and the termination notice will be contested in a court of law. There is no other way that this can be resolved during the current VC’s tenure,” he said.

In its reaction to the move, the VBUFA has released a statement saying, “In his latest blatant violation of the law of the land and principle of natural justice, Bidyut Chakraborty, the incumbent Vice-Chancellor of Visva-Bharati, has terminated the service of prof Sudipta Bhattacharya and suspended six students of the university for one year, for protesting against his innumerable illegal and autocratic activities. The Visva-Bharati community—students, teachers and non-teaching employees alike—are united in strongly condemning this vindictive and heinous act.”

The statement added, “We understand Chakraborty’s palpable desperation on the back of several of his malicious decisions being set aside by the honourable High Court of Calcutta with severe strictures. Appropriate legal actions will be taken to bring the perpetrators of the evil design to book. We will also make sure through other forums and platforms that Bidyut Chakraborty and his accomplices in the EC and outside it have enough sleepless nights ahead.”

In his reactions to the incident, former secretary of VBU’s Adhyapak Sabha (teachers’ association) and famed Ashramik Dixit Sinha said that the present VC has been targeting Sudipta Bhattacharya for a long time. He claimed that the VC’s decisions are decimating the values and ethics of the famed Visva Bharati University. “It is a contradictory kind of situation where the VC himself is tarnishing the reputation of the university. We have seen political appointees in the past, like Nemaisadhan Basu, during the time of Rajiv Gandhi. But no university VC has been so draconian in response to the opposition to his or her way of functioning,” Sinha said, asking, “Is Sudipta being vindicated for standing in support of Prof Amartya Sen?” 

Amid these turmoils in the university, its rank has been relegated from its earlier 11th position (2015 -16) to an all-time low of 98th among Indian universities in a recent survey.

The national umbrella body of college and university teachers, All India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisations (AIFUCTO,)  has strongly condemned the steps taken by the VC with the help of an executive body which has been turned into a “yes-man” body. 

Keshab  Bhattacharya, President of  AIFUCTO, told NewsClick that it is a shameful act and an example of highhandedness and undemocratic functioning of the Vice Chancellor. “The VC has even been fined by the court for overstepping his limits and has earned many reprieves from the court. Within a security cordon provided by private musclemen, he is adhering to tactics and politics that is uncommon in academia. We will appraise the MHRD and the UGC of the present situation of the university,” he said

Speaking to NewsClick, former President of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association and two-time President of the Federation of Central University Teachers Association, Rajib Roy said that he is speechless upon hearing the news that a termination notice has been served to the VBU professor. “This is a dastardly draconian measure and the concerned ministry should take immediate steps to stop the harassment of teachers. The notice should be immediately withdrawn,” he said. 

“Rabindranath Tagore’s (the university founder) values and a university of national repute are being demoted by these autocratic steps. Such an ill choice has been deliberately made by the RSS-inspired bigwigs and they aim to destroy the legacy of Tagore,” said  CPI(M) Central Committee member Dr Sujan Chakraborty.

Under VC Chakrabarty’s rule, huge disagreements have taken place among students, professors, and even the state government. Chakrabarty has earlier landed in controversy for arranging a seminar in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act in the university with Bharatiya Janata Party leader Swapan Dasgupta as a speaker.

Last December, the VC decided to utilise the link road only for himself leading to objections from the student’s body. Afterwards, the state government took back the link road under their authority. On January 9, 2021, against this decision of the state government, the VC sat on a dharna. In protest against the VC, the students too staged a dharna, and on that day itself, allegations were made against three student leaders. Somnath Sou (PG Economics, 2nd year), Falguni Pan (PG Economics, 2nd year), and Rupa Chakraborty (Classical Music, PG 2nd year) were indicted in the case. A probe committee was constituted, which failed twice to submit its report in time. Ultimately, after eight months, the committee decided to expel the three students for three years, which the protesting students say was done under pressure from the VC. Now, the second lot of student expulsions has started.

Sou said, “Transgressing all the nomenclature of justice, the VC called the suspended student leaders Maoists while the probe committee was still investigating.” The three students have been suspended since January this year.

Sou was referring to an audio clip that went viral in June this year. In the clip, a voice resembling that of Chakrabarty was heard branding the students as “Maoists.” NewsClick has not verified the veracity of the audio clip.

The State Secretary of the Left-affiliated Students Federation of India (SFI), Srijan Bhattacharya, told NewsClick that concerted attacks have been launched on central universities and VBU is no exception.

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