There was trouble at the Vishwa Bharati campus at Shantiniketan of Birbhum district on Monday as hundreds of local people bulldozed a fence and ransacked the site on which a boundary wall was being set up around the Poush Mela grounds.
Local people ransacked the area, allegedly at the instigation of local Trinamool Congress leadership. Trinamool Congress MLA from Dubrajpur, Naresh Bauri, was allegedly present when the ransacking took place. A local office of the construction site was vandalised. Bricks from the construction site were hurled at the iron gates and a bulldozer was used to damage one of the gates of Vishwa Bharati.
The Vishwa Bharati authorities have decided to call off the Poush Mela, a decision that has angered the local traders’ body. The traders said that they would organise the fair. The association – Bolpur Byabosayee Samity – said that Poush Mela has a long tradition and could not be cancelled without sufficient reason. The traders have thus been trying to prevent the university authorities from building the boundary wall. The Vishwa Bharati authorities decided to call off the fair due to the difficulties over the past two years in organising the Poush Mela amid a tussle with the traders on making them comply with the National Green Tribunal (NBT) guidelines.
The trouble on Monday morning took place under this backdrop, and has thus led to discussion at the top level in the state administration.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar tweeted as soon as the news on the vandalism broke, saying, “Situation of law and order in Visva Bharati is alarming. Am trying to be in touch with CM to secure peace in the temple of learning.” He later tweeted to add that he had discussed the matter with Mamata Banerjee.
Students Federation of India leader Somnath Sau said that some students and alumni had organised an hour-long sit-in before the prayer hall of the university to protest the setting up of the boundary wall, though they had nothing to do with the incident of ransacking earlier in the day. He said it was an attempt to prevent access of people to the Poush Mela ground.
The University authorities have said that the boundary wall would not prevent anyone from entering the premises, including morning walkers who too were upset by the decision. Many feel that the boundary wall is restrictive and goes against the age-old tradition of holding the Poush Mela on the grounds without any boundary wall.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that she was against the setting up of a boundary wall, and said the local administration would discuss the matter with the university authorities.