Santiniketan’s Visva Bharati university on Monday decided to temporarily close its campus following violent protests against its decision to construct a boundary wall around the venue of its annual fair.
The protesters demolished two of the university’s gates and threw construction material stocked to build a wall around an open ground, where an annual fair is held in December, police said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the chancellor of the central university.
The fair, popularly known as Poush Mela, is a prestigious annual cultural event started more than a century ago and draws thousands of people and foreign tourists. Locals and traders — the fair is a major source of income for many — have been staging demonstrations against the boundary wall since Saturday. However, Bidyut Chakrabarty, the vice-chancellor, has refused to stop the construction.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee disapproved of the wall and said: “I do not want any construction that destroys the beauty of Visva Bharati. The governor called me to seek the state’s intervention. I have told the police to let the district magistrate call a meeting where students, locals and the vice-chancellor can express their views. I will urge the vice-chancellor not do anything that destroys the heritage of Tagore and Bengal.”
The vice-chancellor did not comment. Anirban Sircar, the only designated spokesperson of Visva Bharati did not take calls.