Last week, Congress, in its bid to mount an attack against Amit Shah and in an attempt to tarnish the image of the BJP ahead of the West Bengal assembly elections resorted to lies to allege that the Union Home Minister sat on the hallowed chair of Bengali icon Rabindranath Tagore.
Speaking at Lok Sabha on February 8, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury claimed that Amit Shah sat on Tagore’s chair and disrespected the poet and revolutionary.
In his address, starting at 21.20. Chowdhury says, “The government belongs to every single one of us. BJP leader Amit Shah and JP Nadda went to Bengal ahead of the state elections. They visited Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan. They claimed he was born there. People are laughing at such erroneous claims. First read where Tagore was born and then visit such places. We are ashamed of this. They are leaders of the ruling party. Our Home Minister Amit Shah goes and sits on Rabindranath Tagore’s chair. Don’t know who asked you to go and sit on Tagore’s chair. This is a grave insult to Rabindranath Tagore. While visiting such places, you should bear in mind the local sensitivities and ethos of the place.”
Claims about Amit Shah sitting on a chair belonging to Rabindranath Tagore instantly went viral on the social media websites, with many users, mostly those sympathetic to the Congress party, enthusiastically disseminating the assertion that Shah sat on Tagore’s chair and disrespected the Bengali cultural icon.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah refutes allegations levelled by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury
However, Union Home Minister Amit Shah rubbished the allegations levelled by Congress’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, stating that charges levelled against him are devoid of facts. A day after Chowdhury accused Shah of sitting on Tagore’s chair and disrespecting the Nobel laureate, the Union Home Minister said in the Lok Sabha that the Congress leader had presented “incorrect information” in the House.
“He isn’t aware of the facts. I am keeping the facts on record. The truth is that Jawaharlal Nehru sat on Rabindranath Tagore’s chair and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had tea on his sofa,” Amit Shah said, along with presenting photographs as evidence in the House.
Even the Vice Chancellor of the Visvabharti University, where Santiniketan is located, shot off a letter to Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury informing him that his allegations are “patently untrue”.
In his letter, the vice-chancellor wrote, “You have unfortunately been misinformed, as this is patently untrue. In the past, during their official visits to Uttarayan, a number of dignitaries, including the former Chancellors, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Madam Pratibha Patil, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Madam Shiekh Hasina, among others, have sat in that makeshift seat, which is actually just the edge of a window on which cushions are placed. This fact has been documented in photographs.”
The South American connection to Rabindranath Tagore’s hallowed armchair
There is a South American connection to Tagore’s armchair, which was used by the Congress party to portray BJP and Amit Shah in a bad light ahead of the West Bengal elections. The chair which is currently preserved at Santiniketan was gifted by Tagore’s Argentine admirer, Victoria Ocampo.
In 1924, Tagore was on his way to Peru to attend the centenary celebrations of independence when he had to take a medical rest in Argentina’s Buenos Aires. Victoria came to know about Tagore’s stay and offered to take care of him. She reportedly mortgaged her jewellery to rent a beautiful mansion in San Isidro, a suburb of Buenos Aires, where she housed the Indian literary giant. The 63-year-old Tagore was revitalised by the charming 34-year-old Ocampo during his 58 days of recuperation at Buenos Aires.
When it was time for Tagore to leave, Ocampo gifted him an armchair to take to India from Buenos Aires. But there was one problem—the chair was too big to get into Tagore’s cabin in the ship. However, Ocampo was determined to not give up. Ocampo told the the captain of the ship to break the door of the cabin to accommodate the chair. She also got arranged a two-bed room cabin for Tagore through her contact.
‘Thinking of Him’ movie captures the special bond between Rabindranath Tagore and his Argentine muse Victoria Ocampo
This anecdote was also captured in a movie named ‘Thinking of Him’ which explores Rabindranath Tagore’s relationship with Argentinian feminist, writer and activist Victoria Ocampo.
Directed by Pablo Cesar, the movie attempts to recreate the fascinating Tagore-Ocampo encounters based on real-life incidents. Ocampo was an ardent admirer of Rabindranath Tagore, from whom she reportedly drew a spiritual awakening and literary inspiration. She was familiar with his writings and began to idolise him after she read the French translation of Gitanjali.
In an Argentine Daily, Ocampo later wrote an article titled “The joy of reading Rabindranath Tagore”. She was overawed by his intellect and serenity and felt like a shy child in front of him. She listened to him mostly and remained inhibited in his presence.
For Tagore, Ocampo was a muse for his Purabi poems in which he called her Bijoya (for Victoria) and dedicated the poems to her. The two shared a deeply emotional but platonic bond. Tagore lovingly addressed Ocampo as Bijoya. The two continued to exchange letters till Tagore’s death in 1941.