Describing his visit to Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan on Monday as a “pilgrimage”, President Ram Nath Kovind said the institution has played a key role in “national regeneration”.
“This is the place that infused new energy into our national life. Thus, I come here not only as the Visitor or Paridarsaka, but equally as a humble pilgrim and seeker of the answers to our eternal quest for wisdom. I call this a pilgrimage because the two greatest visionaries of modern India, Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, frequently met here. In this year of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, let us recall their unique bonding that shaped the history of modern Indian life and thought. It is here that we all pick the threads of life and lessons of these great sages and learn from them,” the President said, while addressing the Visva-Bharati convocation in which 4,750 students received their degrees.
The President said right education was the key to national regeneration. “For Gurudev, as well as Mahatma, right education was the key to national regeneration. To this end, Tagore thought of an alternative educational model that thrived on an intimate communion with nature. Tagore was too great to be inhibited by man-made barriers of gender, caste, community or race. Open air for open minds. He wanted to remove walls, literally and metaphorically, when the world was raising walls,” he said.
The President continued, “It was in this place that Tagore lived and worked. The community here — students, academics, staff, ashramites (residents) — are proud inheritors of that rich legacy, which your founder has left. Its illustrious alumni covering a diverse range of personalities from (Prime Minister) Indira Gandhi and (filmmaker) Satyajit Ray to (Nobel laureate) Amartya Sen have not only fulfilled its founder’s vision to a great extent, but also contributed in taking independent India to new heights in various walks of life.”
Kovind added Tagore felt it necessary not only to train the minds of the students through disciplines like philosophy, literature or history, but also to engage their souls with music, painting and fine arts. “Given the pragmatic needs, there was space for agricultural studies too.”
Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty felicitated the President and gifted him a ‘saptaparni’ (seven leaves of ‘Chhatim’ tree) — a ritual dating back to the days of Tagore. Governor Jagdeep Dhankar was also present at the convocation.
Meanwhile, some members of AIDSO, the students’ wing of CPI, protested inside the campus against the university’s appeal to Union Home Ministry seeking deployment of CISF personnel. Police, however, removed them from the campus and brought the situation under control.