Amartya Sen writes to Mamata Banerjee expressing his ‘deep appreciation’ for her support in the land controversy in Santiniketan

Published : December 29, 2020 17:27 IST

The artist Subhaprasanna (front, wearing red kurta) and the singer Kabir Suman (to his left) and others during a demonstration in support of Amartya Sen, in Kolkata on December 27. Photo: Ashok Bhaumik/PTI

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has written to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, expressing his “deep appreciation” for her support after he was dragged into a land controversy by the administrators of Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan. Sen’s name was included in a list of people who were allegedly illegally occupying land that belonged to the Central university. Mamata Banerjee had protested against what she called an insult to Amartya Sen and had written to him extending her solidarity.

In her letter to Amartya Sen, Mamata Banerjee had written, “Kindly count me as your sister and friend in your just war against intolerance and totalitarianism. Let us not be daunted by their untrue accusations and unfair attacks. We shall overcome.”

Amartya Sen, who has not ruled out the possibility of political motives behind the allegations, wrote back to Mamata Banerjee saying: “I am very happy indeed to get your wonderfully supportive letter. I am not only most touched, but also very reassured that despite the busy life you have to lead, you can find time for reassuring people under attack. Your strong voice along with your full understanding of what is going on, is, for me, a tremendous source of strength.” He ended the letter extending to Mamata Banerjee his “personal affection and admiration”.

The developments surrounding Amartya Sen has become a major issue between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress, the two main adversaries in the State, ahead of the Assembly elections. The BJP, which has always had a rocky relationship with the Nobel laureate, said a man of Sen’s stature should not become “a spokesperson for any political party or ideology”. When the Santiniketan land controversy hit the headlines, Amartya Sen said: “There may be a political reason behind the war that is being waged from the office of the Vice Chancellor [Bidyut Chakraborty]. I have often been the target of criticism for the political party to whom Bidyut babu is beholden to.”