Visva-Bharati University replaces controversial plaques after UNESCO recognition of Shantiniketan

Visva-Bharati University

Kolkata: The Visva-Bharati University in Kolkata has removed the controversial plaques that were installed about the UNESCO recognition of Shantiniketan as a heritage site. The officials of the university informed this on Thursday. Shantiniketan is a cultural and educational hub that was founded by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in 1901 in rural West Bengal.

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, included Shantiniketan in the list of World Heritage Sites in September 2024, acknowledging its contribution to the preservation and promotion of the classical traditions of India. The university had installed three plaques to commemorate the UNESCO recognition, but they did not mention Tagore’s name and instead featured the names of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the former Vice-Chancellor Vidyut Chakraborty.

The plaques sparked a political row and Chakraborty, who retired last month, faced criticism from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the state’s main opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and several eminent personalities. They accused Chakraborty of ignoring Tagore’s legacy and giving credit to Modi, who is the Chancellor of the university. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) had also staged a 14-day protest outside the university campus over the issue.

Visva-Bharati University

The officials said that the text on the new plaques has been approved by the Union Education Ministry and does not mention anyone other than Tagore. The new plaques read, “Founded by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in 1901 in rural West Bengal, Shantiniketan has become a cradle of learning and education firmly rooted in the classical traditions of India.” The officials also said that the new plaques will be installed soon and that the university is proud of its heritage and respects Tagore’s vision.