An organisation of the teachers of Visva-Bharati on Wednesday alleged that its Vice-Chancellor Prof Bidyut Chakraborty made baseless comments against economist Amartya Sen that the Nobel laureate urged him to stop hawker eviction drive from near his Santiniketan residence and introduced himself as a “Bharat Ratna” during the phone call.
Sudipta Bhattacharya, president of the Visva-Bharati Faculty Association, told PTI that Mr Sen’s faculty assistant at Harvard University, Chie Ri, sent a mail to him on behalf of the economist stating that he does not recall having any such conversation with the VC in recent times.
Mr Bhattacharya stated that the VC had claimed during a recent online meeting with the faculty that he had got a phone call from a person who introduced himself as “Bharat Ratna Amartya Sen” and requested him not to evict hawkers from near that house as Mr Sen’s “daughter buys vegetables from them”.
The Association president said that he had sent a mail to Mr Sen about the VC’s comment and got a reply on Tuesday from Ri.
“I do not think I have had such a conversation with him. I should also mention that I had never referred to myself as Bharat Ratna. I also do not think I could have referred to my daughter buying vegetables from the hawkers and that being a reason for keeping the hawkers undisturbed.
“I don’t know where my daughters buy vegetables. That would be no reason anyway to bring in the question of how the hawkers should be treated. Finally, there are no hawkers outside my home in Santiniketan,” the mail, purportedly sent by Mr Sen’s faculty assistant, read.
The VC or any other senior official of the central university could not be reached for comments.
In a communication to his faculty colleagues two days back, Mr Bhattacharya said, “We came to know from VC that Professor Sen is an extremely selfish person who wanted that street hawkers near his house should not be evicted as her daughter used to buy things from them.”
It was also claimed that Prof Sen refused to donate his house for hawking activities when requested by the VC, Bhattacharya alleged.
In the mail sent from the ID of his faculty assistant, Mr Sen said, “I do think however that Visva Bharati often interferes too much with the normal life of ordinary people, of which setting up walls to interfere with ways and passages of people is a good example.”
Trouble erupted at the Visva Bharati campus on August 17 as a large number of people ransacked the university’s properties protesting the construction of a boundary wall at a ground where the famous Pous Mela is held.
“I also remember my mother, who of course lived in our home (Pratichi) did try to help hawkers from eviction, not outside our home (since there are no hawkers there), but near Pearson Palli. All this is, of course, quite unrelated to the absurd statement that the Vice Chancellor has allegedly made,” Mr Sen purportedly said in the mail.
The economist’s mother Amita Sen died at Santiniketan in 2005.