The Visva-Bharati University administration on Thursday, January 30, issued a notification barring all employees from interacting with media with immediate effect and asked them to air their views, if any, through the university’s public relations officer, Anirban Sircar. The order, warning that “appropriate action” will be taken in case of violation, stated, “To seek the public limelight and self-importance through media for oneself is unworthy of any teacher or employee of Visva-Bharati… The genuine grievances of the staff will be sympathetically attended to by the concerned officers and the higher authorities and any one [sic] can reach the Registrar or the Vice-Chancellor through the above officer (public relations in-charge).”
“This notification violates the right to freedom of speech. It is nothing but to stop voices of those who can oppose several malpractices in the varsity. However, the authorities can’t stop protest by issuing such bans,” said Kesab Bhattacharya, President, All India Federation of University and College Teachers’ Organisations (AIFUCTO) told The Telegraph.
This order came in the backdrop of recent controversies over Vice Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty’s Republic Day speech on constitutional amendments and the eviction of a student from the hostel for recording the VC’s address. Bijju Sarkar, an undergraduate student in the department of history, was issued a hand-written letter by the university’s proctor on January 27, asking him to immediately vacate his hostel room.
The letter said, “As per your confession regarding recording and forward transmission of the video shot on your mobile phone of the Vice Chancellor’s speech at PTSBH on the occasion of Republic Day flag-hoisting, which was later used to defame the Vice Chancellor on social media, I am hereby ordering you to immediately vacate your hostel room.”
“Today, those who are opposing the CAA are reading the Preamble. But this Constitution was drafted by ‘minority’ votes. (Only) 293 people met at the Constituent Assembly and drafted the Constitution. If you read papers of that time, (you will find) many people opposed it. Now that has become the Vedas for us. Preamble has become the Vedas. But if we do not like (the Preamble), we, who are voters and form Parliament, will change it…,” Chakraborty can be heard saying in the video, reported The Telegraph. The university’s security department was asked to check the footage to identify the student who shot the video after the VC was criticised for his speech.
On the same day, in another attempt to suppress the students’ voices, the university administration issued a notification saying that no one could protest around the central administrative building area. The notification said, “Henceforth, the Central Administrative Building including the area of Central Library and Academic & Research Section are declared as ‘no disturb zone’ of the University. Hence, any kind of procession/demonstration/get-together surrounding these areas is strictly prohibited.”
A joint committee of the students of the university said in a statement, “All these incidents show that the VC just wants to exploit his power to curb dissenting voices. This also shows his anti-student mindset, which is very dangerous for an educational institution, and otherwise too. We, the students of Visva Bharati strongly condemn the steps taken by the VC to suppress our voices.”
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