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Visva-Bharati sends eviction notice to Amartya Sen

Visva-Bharati, West Bengal’s only central university, has issued a notice to Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, asking him to show cause why an eviction order should not be issued against him for not vacating a portion of a land on the campus that he is allegedly illegally occupying.

**EDS: TO GO WITH STORY** Kolkata: Nobel Laureate and Bharat Ratna economist Amartya Sen during an interview, in Kolkata, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (PTI Photo)(PTI01_14_2023_000083B) (PTI)

‘Pratichi,’ Sen’s home, stands on the sprawling campus at Bolpur in the state’s Birbhum district.

“In pursuance of sub-section (I) of Section 4 of the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971, I hereby call upon you to show cause on or before March 24, 2023, why an order of eviction should not be made against you in respect of the public premises mentioned,” the notice issued on March 17 said. HT has seen a copy of the notice.

The notice, signed by the joint registrar and estate officer, also asked Sen to appear in person or send a representative to Visva-Bharati’s central administrative building at 4.45pm on March 29 for a hearing. “In case you and your authorised representative fail to appear on the said date, the case may be decided ex-parte,” the notice said.

HT could not immediately confirm if the 89-year-old economist received the notice he returned to the United States – where he lives most of the time – after spending at this property.

The Prime Minister is the chancellor of Visva-Bharati.

Since 2022, vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty has been claiming that Sen is in possession of 1.38 acres of land on the Santiniketan campus.

Chakrabarty said that Sen’s father Ashutosh – who was a professor at Visva-Bharati – had rented only 1.25 acres of land on a 99-year lease in 1943 and thus, the remaining .13 decimal should be returned to the university.

Three letters to this effect were also sent to Sen since January 24 but he did not respond. Visva-Bharati spokesperson Mahua Banerjee said Sen neither responded to any of the earlier letters sent by the university nor took any follow-up action, prompting it to send this notice. “We have no problem if he deputes someone, but we hope he will be responding to the notice this time,” she was quoted as saying by PTI.

In 1944, Visva-Bharati had issued an order, saying Ashutosh Sen would not have to pay any rent for the remaining lease period, the university’s March 17 notice said. However, on January 30, chief minister Mamata Banerjee met Sen at his home and handed over a state land and revenue department record, which showed that all 1.38 decimals covered by the property belonged to him through a mutation executed in 2006. The university challenged the land record issued by the state government.

On January 30, Banerjee also targeted the vice-chancellor over the matter. “No man in the garb of the BJP should insult Amartya Sen. We look at Visva-Bharati through the eyes of Tagore, not through a saffron lens,” she said, without naming Chakrabarty.

During his stay on the campus, Sen had said that he was being targeted for his views on secularism. “I don’t think the steps the chief minister took will stop those who want to oust me from my home. There is politics behind this. I am a target because I voice my views on a secular India where Hindus and Muslims should live in peace. Gandhi and Nehru wanted that. This is not acceptable to some people,” he said. State BJP’s chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said: “Sen is a respectable citizen. We want to see a solution to this issue. It was Mamata Banerjee who brought politics into this.”

Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member Shantanu Sen said: “The humiliation faced by  Sen is the highest example of political vendetta. He has been targeted because he said Banerjee is fit to be the prime minister. This is an insult to Bengal and all Bengalis.”

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