(Eds: Adds Mamata's quotes, row over Amartya Sen) Santinekatan (WB), Dec 24 (PTI) Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore's vision is the essence of 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' mission of his government for empowerment of India and the world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday, as he took forward his outreach to premier educational institutions.
Addressing a function to mark the centenary celebrations of Visva-Bharati, the country's oldest Central University founded by Rabindranath Tagore, he extolled the pivotal role it played in India's freedom movement and in furthering the cause of universal brotherhood.
'Visva-Bharati' was declared a Central University and an Institution of National Importance by an Act of Parliament in 1951.
The event, however, got mired in a controversy with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee saying she was not invited.
'Gurudev's vision for Visva-Bharati is the essence of Atmanirbhar Bharat. Atmanirbhar Bharat is the path to India's development for the development of the world. It's a campaign for India's empowerment and prosperity, and through it, the prosperity of the word,' he told the gathering through video conferencing from New Delhi.
Speaking to reporters in Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee said she was not extended any invitation, written or verbal, to attend the function at the university whose chancellor the prime minister is.
'No, can't recall having been invited to the function.
On my own, I posted on Twitter about the sense of pride for Visva Bharati having completed 100 years,' she said.
In his address, the prime minister said Tagore and the institution he founded not only strengthened the spirit of nationalism but also promoted inclusiveness that strengthened 'vishva bandhutva' (universital brotherhood).
The prime minister, who addressed the convocations and centenary celebrations of four universities--the Mysore University, Lucknow University, Aligarh Muslim University and Visva-Bharati--within a span of little over two months, dwelt on the role played by educational institutions in driving the freedom movement.
He said from the 'Vedas to Vivekananda', Tagore's thoughts reflected the collective thought of India, which was never introverted or exclusive.
'His vision was that what is best in India the world should benefit from it, and India should learn from the good things they have. Now look the very name of your university --Visva-Bharati. It encapsulates this linkage between India and the world,' he said.
Modi also spoke about the inclusive culture that was inherent in India's ethos while referring to Tagore. It came at a time when West Bengal is witnessing political violence in the run-up to the assembly elections, and chief minister Banerjee and the ruling Trinamool Congress have often dubbed his BJP a 'party of outsiders'.
He said Tagore's elder brother Satyendranath Tagore, an ICS offier, was posted in Ahmedabad in Gujarat years before Independence and the nobel laureate had penned two of his works there.
Satyandranath Tagore's wife Gyanandini Devi, he said was told, had popularised the way of wearing a saree that would allow women to perform household chores with greater confort.
'I want all of you to strengthen this culture of unity in diversity,' Modi said.
Modi said Visva-Bharati was the embodiment of the vision and the hard work of the Nobel laureate and a 'venerable source of constant energy to the country.' He said, today, India was spreading Visva-Bharati's message to the world.
'India is today leading the world in the field of environment protection through the International Solar Alliance and is the only country moving at a rapid pace to achieve the goals of the Paris Accord,' he asserted.
He recalled the role of the leaders of the Bhakti Movement like Guru Nanak, Kabir and Surdas, who sowed the seeds of the freedom movement long before it started in the 19th and 20th century.
The Bhakti Movement, he asserted, strengthened India's spiritual evolution and collective consciousness.
He said after the long period of the Bhakti Movement arrived Ramkrishna Paramhansa who discovered Swami Vivekananda who was a 'blend of Bhakti (devotion), Gyan (knowledge) and Karma (action)'.
'The Bhakti Movement united us, the Movement for Knowledge gave us intellectual strength and the Movement of Karma, exemplified by the likes of Shivaji, Maharana Pratap, Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi and Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki gave us the spirit and courage to fight for our rights.' He said at a time when India was fighting to win freedom from the colonial rule, the need was felt for an ideological movement and to prepare a new generation that could play a major role in rebuilding India.
'Educational insitutions and universities like Visva- Bharati and others gave a new direction to the freedom movement.' Praising the institution for its remarkable achievements in varied fields like art and literature, and science and innovation, the prime minister urged its students to reach out to the artisans in the region to explore ways to find national and international markets for their produce.
'That will make them self-reliant. Atmanirbhar Bharat is the initiative for India's prosperity which will aid in global prosperity,' he said.
When asked about a fresh controversy which erupted on the day of the centenary function about another Nobel laureate from West Bengal Amartya Sen being in illegal possession of Visva Bharati land, Banerjee claimed the celebrated economist was often targeted because of his anti-BJP stance.
'Because of his ideological anti-BJP stance, Amartyada has been subjected to such vicious attack by the present authorities of university.
'I respect Amartya da. Do you believe Amartya Sen has occupied land? I am offering apology to Amartya da on behalf of Bengal,' Banerjee said.
The Times of India reported on Thursday that Visva- Bharati has written to the West Bengal government alleging dozens of land parcels owned by it were wrongfully recorded in the names of private parties including Sen. These people had set up restaurants, schools and other businesses on its land, the varsity said, according to the report.
'They (the BJP) think the way they insult me, they will now insult the luminaries of Bengal like Sen. They are wrong. People of the state won't accept this,' she said.
Sen owns a house in the Visva-Bharati premises.
The newspaper quoting Sen said it was built on land that was on a long lease which was nowhere near expiry. PTI SUS SK SK SK