Over 250 academics, including well-known linguist Noam Chomsky, have written to President Draupadi Murmu, informing her about the service termination of Visva Bharati professor Sudipta Bhattacharya over “undesirable” actions, and seeking her intervention.
The letter, dated January 9, described the action by Visva Bharati as brazenly “illegal”, arguing that no proper inquiry was conducted to verify the “list of misconducts” flagged by the university as having been allegedly committed by Bhattacharya on different occasions.
A copy of the letter has been made available to PTI.
Bhattacharya was, on December 22, told about his “discontinuation of service/contract with Visva Bharati” in a meeting of the executive council of the central university, the letter to the president said.
“A series of misconducts has been listed without specifying the dates and other details of the incident or the specific actions for which Professor Bhattacharya has been indicted. It is clear that no proper inquiry was conducted by the university authorities before initiating draconian disciplinary action against a university professor and office-bearer of the faculty association. Neither has there been a show cause notice issued to the professor concerned,” stated the letter, undersigned by Chomsky, economist Amiya Bagchi, former director of Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Partha Chatterjee, XLRI Professor Sumit Sarkar and Jadavpur University Emeritus Professor Supriya Chaudhury, among others.
It pointed out that the termination order for Bhattacharya is indicative of how the norms, laws and procedures governing Visva Bharati are being “violated under the leadership of its current vice chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty”.
“As the visitor of Visva Bharati and the custodian of statutes and ordinance of the university, we urge you to kindly intervene and ensure that this institute of national importance, that was founded by Rabindranath Tagore, continues to foster the spirit of ‘where the mind is without fear’ instead of descending into a saga of vendetta, intimidation and high-handedness by the authorities,” the letter said.
Bhattacharya, when approached, told PTI that faculty members had contacted Chomsky and apprised him of the development, following which the linguist and social critic expressed solidarity with him.
Visva Bharati authorities, however, refused to comment on the matter.
A section of students has been staging demonstrations on the campus since November 2022 over alleged denial of hostel accommodation to some of their peers and the suspension of six others.
The convocation ceremony and the annual Poush Mela (a fair held in the Bengali month of Poush) have been called off by the university in the wake of the unrest.
In a media statement last week, a Visva Bharati spokesperson listed a series of alleged activities of the students such as vandalism at the vice-chancellor’s chamber and ante-chamber, ransacking of CCTV monitors, physical assault on the VC, and attack on the registrar’s private residence and the VC’s official home, and said the varsity will be taking legally endorsed steps, including rustication and dismissal, to restore peace on the campus.
“… the so-called student movement has been nothing but a brazen display of thuggery. The might is right attitude that has characterised this self-styled democratic movement is unacceptable and shall be dealt with sternly,” the university statement added.