Itibritto Justice Chittotosh Mukhopadhyay (President)

The President of the Society, Former Chief Justice Chittotosh Mukhopadhyay apprised all about Rabindra Bharati Society’s “Itibritto” or its history from its inception.

In 1941-42 after the death of Rabindra Nath Tagore, Suresh Chandra Majumdar, Editor of Ananda Bajar Patrika, formed the All India Rabindra Nath Tagore Memorial Committee to preserve the memories and works of Kabi Guru. This Committee’s President was the then renowned Barrister of Allahabad, Sir Tejbahadur Sapru, Secretary was Suresh Chandra Majumdar and Treasurer was Nripen Majumder. Justice Mukhopadhyay recalls during his childhood he would notice this Committee would release frequent advertisements in Ananda Bajar Patrika requesting for donation which would be utilised to fund Tagore related activities. As a result of this, by 1947 Rs. 5-6 lakhs had been collected from different sources. At that time Rabindra Nath and Abanindra Nath Tagore’s houses were on the verge of being sold off to wrong hands. It was then that the second Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, to whom we are highly indebted, intervened and tried to retrieve three properties viz. No. 5, Dwarka Nath Tagore Lane, where Rabindra Nath used to live and two small plots No. 5/2, Dwarka Nath Tagore Lane, where Abanindra Nath used to reside and the passage way on Upper Circular Road leading to the entrance of Jorasako Thakurbari. Only these three properties could be retrieved then.

During that time Rabindra Nath Tagore Memorial Committee donated more than Rs. 5 lakh to Bengal Government towards the upkeep of the Society. It was at their request that the land was reclaimed by Land Acquisition Act. To show it as Public Purpose, Bengal Government sanctioned Rs. 10 towards its maintenance. As a result, the three properties, measuring more than 1 acre, were Registered under the Society’s Act and it was named Rabindra Bharati Society. It was then that quite a few renowned personalities joined the Society. As mentioned earlier, at that point of time Sir Tejbahadur Sapru, who was also a member of the Rabindra Nath Tagore Memorial Committee, was serving as the President, Suresh Chandra Majumdar was the Secretary and Nripen Majumder was the Treasurer of the Society. Abanindra Nath Tagore’s name was added to it in the First Committee, along with Rathindra Nath Tagore, Pratima Debi, Suniti Chottopadhyay and many other important personas. Justice Mukhopadhyay did not want to expand the list as it was too lengthy.

The Government handed over all their property to Rabindra Bharati Society on 15th January, 1947, which is celebrated as the Foundation Day, of which we are all aware. Without the intermediation of Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy and his orders as a Chief Minister, all this would not have been possible to achieve. In this manner all the property were transferred to Rabindra Bharati Society. This is said to be a complete Licence and the Government had stipulated many rules and regulations in regard to the same, which is not applicable in present day context. But there was a clause to this Leave and Licence Deed. It was made in such a way that compensation to the debtors, from whom money was taken, that if they claimed the same then Rabindra Bharati Society would be compelled to reimburse them. As a result of this, after a few days when under Calcutta High Court it was adjudged then and this compensation amount was raised by Rs. 3 – 3.5 lakh. It was not possible for the Committee or Rabindra Bharati Society to pay this colossal amount. Hence, the members of Rabindra Bharati Society naturally approached Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy for his kind intervention and assistance.

Then another Deed was drafted in September 1960-62. That Deed specifically pointed out the right of our Society. By the honour of that Deed these three properties that were reclaimed as a part of it was given to the Society, though Justice Mukhopadhyay did not want to mention how much of it was actually given. It was pointed out in that Deed that the previous owners received the money from the Government in lieu of the property. It is also mentioned that Government donated Rs. 1 lakh to Rabindra Bharati Society towards construction of an auditorium and renovation, maintenance and upkeep of the 4-storied property. Also it was laid down that they were giving permission to Rabindra Bharati Society to create a Dance, Drama and Music Academy at a time when Rabindra Bharati University was not founded. In our Base, the one that we see now, probably the property on the left side of Circular Road as we enter, there in a marble tabloid where all this is inscribed. As a result of this, for the Academy that was formed by the Government, we had to forgo a portion of our land and some part of our land was also encroached upon and taken away. But we were told as long as we do work of Rabindra Nath Tagore, we can stay here as a Grant. This is what is written in the Deed and Justice Mukhopadhyay has a feeling that we are not very conversant with what is inscribed in the Deed. It was during this time that respected Dr. Pratap Chandra Chunder took on the rein as President of the Society, along with many other reputed personalities serving alongside him. Portfolio holders kept changing over the years and these stalwarts through their hard work, dedication and endeavour took forward the legacy of Rabindra Bharati Society.

In short the history goes like this. This property was bought through Compulsory Land Acquisition Act with the fund that the All India Rabindra Nath Tagore Memorial Committee donated and after that because we were unable to refund the compensation amount to the Government, we had to give away a big portion of our land to the Dance, Drama and Music Academy in lieu of it. That was transformed during the time of Rabindra Nath Tagore’s Birth Centenary when the then Prime Minister, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru attended the programme and inaugurated the Rabindra Bharati University. So if right is to be spoken of then we can surely say it is our Rabindra Bharati Society, as much before the inception of the university we existed with pride. We carried the legacy and tradition of Rabindra Nath Tagore forward and we have kept him alive through his works with dignity and pride. This is the summary of the history which Justice Mukhopadhyay had narrated in a synopsis. What the public had donated towards it, that money was the nucleus or source by which these properties were acquired. But by the Government’s contribution and Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy’s foresightedness, though he had not paid initially, only Rs 10 was allowed as a token grant. After 1955 when Calcutta High Court asked for the compensation it was Dr. Roy who sanctioned that money. He endorsed for renovation of the houses and construction of the auditorium. But there are some clauses and riders attached to it. These properties have been given to us on the ground that we use it only for Rabindra Nath Tagore’s works. So we should not think that somebody else has out of their own free will given it to us or any other organisation has gifted it to us. The three properties viz. No. 5, Dwarka Nath Tagore Lane, No. 5/2, Dwarka Nath Tagore Lane and the passage way on Upper Circular Road leading to the entrance of Jorasako Thakurbari, with which we stared our journey and are continuing till date, are rightfully ours. Justice Mukhopadhyay thought this information was enough and he said he would give in detail a write up of the same in the upcoming magazine. This is the history of Rabindra Bharati Society, which Justice Mukhopadhyay thinks all should be cognizant of. Thanks to Justice Mukhopadhyay for enlightening us with these valuable insights.