The stalemate continued at the prestigious Visva-Bharati University as students demanding the reopening of hostels and conducting online exams refused to withdraw their sit-in demonstration outside the registrar’s office until their demands were met. The clerk, on the other hand, also refused to leave his room until the students had ended their riot.
Amid the university crisis, department heads held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing situation, even as Vice Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty issued a notice announcing that the doors of the central office, library and other departments will be closed to “visitors”. †
The agitation by more than 200 students lasted for 48 hours on Wednesday morning, with Registrar Ashis Agarwal in his office, even as students claimed they had not cheated on him and he can leave if he wishes. However, the official said he will not leave his room until the protesters withdraw their commotion.
There was great drama on Tuesday when the clerk tried to get out of his room to offer puja on Maha Shivaratri, but the excited students refused to leave him alone and offered to accompany him. After this incident, he retired to his office and refused to leave it until the rioters had left the place. The excited students spent Tuesday evening outdoors.
They demanded that hostels be reopened for students, from all over West Bengal and other states, who have to spend huge sums on accommodation in the city of Bolpur. They also wanted ongoing semester exams of undergraduate and postgraduate students to be held online as the curriculum had been taught that way for the past two years. The university said it will make a decision on reopening hostels, which have been closed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, at an opportune time by weighing all options.
The protesting students had agitated in the registry office on Monday morning to press their demands. “The registry office wants us all to leave as a condition of his leaving his office. We informed him that we will remain seated until the hostels reopen. We have repeatedly asked him to leave since 10 a.m. Tuesday, but he is not leaving,” SFI leader Somnath Sow told PTI.
The Faculty Association of Visva-Bharati University has expressed its solidarity with the inciting students and urged the authorities “to get off the high pedestal and approach the issue in a considerate humane way, as the students are like their children” . While the VC and Registrar could not be contacted, a university official said that “some students create anarchy and disrupt normal academic functioning”.
Another institute official said the denial of basic rights to the registrar was shocking. Visva-Bharati University was founded in 1921 by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in Santiniketan in the Birbhum district of Bengal. It gained the status of a central university in 1951.
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