Kolkata, May 8 (IANS) Visva-Bharati, the university founded by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, has veered away from the poet’s ideals and is today guided by ‘crass commercialism’, says a descendent of the bard.
‘I don’t think Rabindranath had wanted Visva-Bharati as an institute providing mere degrees to the students. He wanted it to be an oriental centre of learning where foreigners will come for advanced research. And there will be a healthy exchange of knowledge,’ Supriyo Tagore, the great grandson of Rabindranath’s elder brother Satyendranath Tagore, told IANS in an interview.
‘There has been no effort on the part of the authorities to implement such concepts. Rabindranath had visualised the university as an institution that would facilitate the creation of knowledge. But there is a total lack of will among the powers-that-be,’ Supriyo said.
Rural reconstruction was very close to Rabindranath’s heart for which he founded a special school at Surul close to his Santiniketan Ashram, said Supriyo, 72, a former principal of Visva-Bharati’s Patha Bhavana school.
‘At the core of Tagore’s thoughts was a desire to nurture humane feelings. For this, he had settled poor Santhal families at Pearson Pally (named after the poet’s associate William Winstanley Pearson), close to Santiniketan as part of his rural reconstruction and tribal welfare initiatives. But the university has simply turned a blind eye to the
sufferings of these poor families,’ he alleged.
‘I feel like crying when I see their condition. Former MP Somnath Chatterjee and others have tried to help them out. But when some of us approached Visva-Bharati, we were told such activities are outside the purview of the central university.
‘These Santhal families don’t have the means to get education. There is an acute shortage of drinking water in the locality. The university seems to have all but forgotten Tagore’s ideals,’ he said.
He accused the university of being guided by ‘crass commercialism’, adding: ‘Sangit Bhavana (the music institute) has now become synonymous with propaganda and a means of getting funds. There is little scope for research. There is no quality library.’
However, he praised Kala Bhavana (the institute of fine arts), saying a lot of creative work was being done there. ‘Kala Bhavana is the only wing where there is an honest effort to implement Tagore’s philosophy.’
According to Supriyo, the university has been devoured by politics.
‘Be it the teachers’ bodies or the non-teaching staff organsiations, there is politics everywhere. Even appointments are guided by political considerations.’
Supriyo, who was principal of Patha Bhavana for a long time before taking voluntary retirement in 1995, said: ‘One of the reasons for my decision was that I was not able to implement my ideas. I found Patha Bhavana, or for that matter the entire university, had become exam centric.’
Rabindranath Tagore had wanted a communion between students and nature, the teacher and the taught at Visva-Bharati.
‘I passed out of the Patha Bhavana in 1954. Our teachers, true to Rabindranath’s philosophy, would acquaint us with plants, birds and insects by taking us for regular strolls in the sprawling campus or even outside. Nowadays, teaching has become completely bookish.’
He regretted that efforts were on to take Patha Bhavana out of the ambit of the university and run it like any other government school.
‘This is again contrary to Tagore’s ideals. He had visualised the university as a complete education centre from the primary to the highest level.’
Rabindranath founded Visva-Bharati university in 1921. The poet’s 150th birth anniversary falls Sunday, May 9.