Suspended prof, students of Visva Bharati University claim they are being targeted for opposing VC's views

 The professor and the VC’s political differences are what allegedly led to the former’s suspension
Representative Image
Representative Image

Over the last two weeks, different sections of faculty, administration and students have been at loggerheads with each other, leading to the suspension of Prof Sudipta Bhattacharyya and the subsequent suspension of two postgraduate students. Bhattacharyya was suspended by the Vice-Chancellor for ‘maligning’ the name of the University and for alleged ‘misconduct’. The two students had been suspended for breaking the lock of the professor’s office, a claim they refuse to accept. 

The professor and the VC’s political differences are what allegedly led to the former’s suspension. Sources say that the University has imposed a gag order on the faculty prohibiting them from speaking to anyone about the issue. Sources close to the professor said they think it is unfair to have the gag order and they were worried that only supporters of the VC would be able to get their voices heard. Over 500 academicians from institutions across the world had signed a petition condemning the suspension of the professor. 

Sources close to the professor said that they suspect the administration of creating a counter-petition accusing the professor of maligning the university. He has received a show-cause notice from the University and the professor’s friends say that he has filed a writ petition in Calcutta High Court challenging his suspension and the show-cause notice. The professor’s supporters are annoyed that instead of looking into the complaints that the professor raised against irregularities in the university, the professor and the students are being investigated and attacked. 

According to faculty and students at the university, several faculty and non-teaching staff are either being suspended, terminated or issued show-cause notices. The professor, is also the President of the Visva Bharati University Faculty Association, many of whose members are facing action, sources said. 

SFI member Somnath Sow, who is one of the students who was suspended by the University, says he had nothing to do with the lock breaking. His suspension notice said, “Your act of breaking/opening the seal may have a connection with the said enquiry in addition to being an attempt to damage the public poverty of Visva Bharati and to create a disturbance in the campus and thereby also to vitiate the academic ambience of the University.” The notice said that the act amounted to gross indiscipline and misconduct. The students have been suspended for three months, “During this period you will not enter any department, classroom, lab, library or any other precincts of the University,” it read.

“The one thing they are accusing us of is breaking this lock but it was not us. The fact is that they are using this as an excuse. This suspension has to do with the fact that we have been opposing many of the activities of the VC. We have been protesting against the saffronisation of the campus. The VC is just suspending anybody who opposes him,” the student said. The students are worried that they would be missing their first semester exams in March because of the suspension, “Three months is a huge gap and will severely affect our academics,” the students said. 

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