PM Modi Invokes Tagore and ‘Kabuliwala’ at Visva-Bharati Convocation With Mamata and Hasina

Kolkata: Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared the stage with Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the 49th convocation of Visva-Bharti University on Friday.
This is Modi’s maiden visit to the varsity after becoming the prime minister. The last time a chancellor was present at a convocation at Visva-Bharati, which was founded by Rabindra Nath Tagore, was in 2008 when Manmohan Singh was the prime minister.
Addressing the students, the PM first apologised to them. “First of all, as the chancellor of Visva Bharati University, I apologise. When I was coming here, some students were telling me with gestures that there is no arrangement of drinking water. I want to apologise for all the inconvenience caused to you.”
Invoking Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who founded the central university, and his iconic short story Kabuliwala, Modi said he felt privileged to spend time on “Tagore’s soil”. “Tagore was a global citizen and wanted Shantiniketan to be a home for the world… Tagore wanted students in India to have a wider global view and always gave priority to the identity of India,” the PM said.
The convocation ceremony served up the historic moment when Modi took the dais with Banerjee and Hasina. But the convocation missed out on an important tradition as the PM did not award ‘Desikottam’, the university’s highest accolade. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) did not give clearance for the same citing the PM’s tight schedule, officials said.
The Visva Bharati academic council had recently cleared the names of actor Amitabh Bachchan, painter Jogen Chowdhury, lyricist Gulzar, author Amitav Ghosh, writer Suniti Kumar Pathak, singer Dwijen Mukherjee and scientist Ashok Sen for the honour.
“The names were sent to the HRD ministry and the PMO, but we have not received any communication. Therefore, this year ‘Desikottam’ will not be awarded by our PM,” a senior university official said.
The PM arrived in Shantiniketan around 10:30am and was greeted by Banerjee.