Impasse in Visva-Bharati Over Students’ Demands to Reopen Hostels, Conduct Online Exams


Stalemate continued in the prestigious Visva-Bharati University as students demanding the reopening of hostels and conducting of online examinations refused to withdraw their sit-in demonstration outside the registrar’s office till their demands were met. The registrar, on the other hand, also refused to leave his chamber till the students lifted their stir.

In the midst of the university crisis, heads of departments held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing situation even as Vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty issued a notice announcing that doors of the central office and library and other departments will be closed for “visitors”.

The agitation by more than 200 students crossed 48 hours on Wednesday morning, with Registrar Ashis Agarwal inside his office even as students claimed they haven’t gheraoed him and he may leave if he wishes to. The official, however, said he will leave his chamber only when the protestors withdraw their stir.

High drama was witnessed on Tuesday as the registrar attempted to come out of his room to offer puja on Maha Shivaratri but the agitating students refused to let him go alone, and offered to accompany him. After this incident, he retreated to his office and refused to leave it till the agitators left the place. The agitating students have spent Tuesday night out in the open.

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They demanded that hostels be reopened for students, hailing from across West Bengal and other states, who have to spend huge sums on accommodation in Bolpur town. They also sought that pending semester examinations of undergraduate and post-graduate students be held online as the curriculum was taught in that mode for the last two years. The university said that it will take decision on reopening of hostels, which are shut since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, at an appropriate time by weighing all options.

The protesting students had agitated inside registrar’s office on Monday morning to press for their demands. “The registrar wants us all to leave the place as a precondition for him leaving his office. We have informed him that we will stay put till the hostels are reopened. We have repeatedly asked him to leave since 10 AM on Tuesday but he is not leaving,” SFI leader Somnath Sow told PTI.

Visva-Bharati University Faculty Association has expressed solidarity with the agitating students, and urged the authorities to “get down from the high pedestal and take a considerate humane approach to the issue as the students are like their children”. While the VC and registrar could not be contacted, a university official said that ”some students are creating anarchy, disrupting normal academic functioning”.

Another official of the institute said that denying basic rights to the registrar was shocking. Visva-Bharati University was founded by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore at Santiniketan in Bengal’s Birbhum district in 1921. It was given the status of a central university in 1951.

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