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Rabindranath Tagore’s vision for Visva-Bharati University is the essence of a self-reliant India, or the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat mission, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday.

“Gurudev, omniscient,, walked towards the greater goal of human welfare through co-existence and cooperation. This vision of Gurudev for Visva-Bharati is also the essence of a self-reliant India. The self-reliant India campaign is also the path of India’s welfare for world welfare," Modi said at the centenary celebrations of the university in Santiniketan.

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Visva-Bharati University, founded by Tagore in 1921, is the country’s oldest central university. It was declared an institution of national importance by an Act of Parliament in 1951.

Self-reliant India is a campaign for India’s empowerment and prosperity and, through it, the prosperity of the word, Modi said. Tagore and the institution he founded not only strengthened the spirit of nationalism but also promoted inclusiveness that strengthened “vishva bandhutva" or universal brotherhood, he added.

“This campaign (Atmanirbhar Bharat) is a campaign to empower India, a campaign to bring prosperity… Who knows this better than (Visva) Bharati and the world? Gurudev gave us the pledge of Swadeshi Samaj. He wanted to see our villages, our agriculture as self-reliant. They wanted to see commerce and trade self-sufficiency. They wanted to see art and literature as self-reliant. He spoke of self-power to achieve the goal of self-reliance," Modi said.

The prime minister, who addressed the convocations and centenary celebrations of Mysore University, Lucknow University, Aligarh Muslim University and Visva-Bharati, in a little more than two months, also spoke about the role played by educational institutions in driving the freedom movement.

“Visva-Bharti is also trying to fulfil this objective through the new National Education Policy. Visva-Bharati has a big role in implementing this education policy. You have 100 years of experience, scholarship, direction, philosophy and Gurudev’s blessings. The more educational institutions, such as Visva-Bharati, spread knowledge about this, the greater will be the understanding of other institutions and the more at ease will they be," Modi said.

Modi’s comments come in the backdrop of West Bengal heading for assembly elections in March-April next year.

Meanwhile, the West Bengal ruling party Trinamool Congress (TMC) alleged that chief minister Mamata Banerjee was not invited to the centenary celebrations of the university.

“Mamata Banerjee did not receive any invitation for the centenary meet of Visva-Bharati," TMC leader Bratya Basu said, addressing a press conference. He also said that Modi made ‘factual errors’ during his speech, earlier during the day.

“Even if the invitation, as you suggest, was sent last night, should that be the decorum? After all, she (Banerjee) is the chief minister of a state," Basu said, responding to a query by a reporter.

PTI contributed to this story.

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