The longstanding dispute between Visva Bharati University and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen over a piece of land has entered a new chapter as the university authorities issued a show cause notice asserting that the eminent economist was 'illegally' occupying the land.
The notice, issued last Friday and made public on Sunday, also asked Prof Sen to explain his take on the matter by Mar 24 and appear before the joint registrar of the university, personally or through a representative, by Mar 29, along with evidence in his defence, reports Indian news agency PTI.
“In case you and your authorised representative fail to appear on the said date, the case may be decided ex-parte,” reads the notice.
The Indian central government-controlled university and the 89-year-old Prof Sen had been embroiled in the dispute since last year after the institution, established by another Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, started making claims that the economist is in possession of 1.38 acres of land on the Santiniketan campus, which is in excess of his legal entitlement of 1.25 acres.
Prof Sen earlier said that most of the land he holds on the campus was purchased from the market by his father, while some other plots were taken on lease.
In the latest notice, Visva Bharati authorities said it had sent three other missives to him in the past two months, reiterating that he has been occupying public premises illegally.
On Sunday, the university spokesperson Mahua Banerjee claimed that Sen neither responded to any earlier letters nor took any follow-up action, prompting it to send this notice.
Critics have been alleging that the university’s actions were politically motivated as Prof Sen has been critical of the BJP-led Indian central government.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, herself a strong political opponent of BJP, had come out in support of the economist and handed over land-related documents to Prof Sen during a visit to his residence in Birbhum district in January when he was at Santiniketan.
The news agency could not reach Prof Sen for comment.